Valve Opens New Luxembourg Office
Valve have opened a new office in Luxembourg that will "better serve"
their tax bill the European consumer base... but they've also updated their subscriber agreement with new dispute resolution terms. They've made it easier for single claimants to make a dispute - even offering to pay legal fees of less than $10,000 - though a new clause reserves them the right to close your Steam account if you embark on a class action lawsuit.
Luckily, thanks to the arcane yet immutable European Union laws surrounding consumer rights, this almost certainly won't affect us Brits (or will be deemed as an 'unconscionable contract' if pressed in court). Which is probably a shame for Valve, since the recent EU court ruling on digital game resale has left the door open for a major consumer-led shakeup of the way they do business.
"We’re introducing a new dispute resolution process that will benefit you and Valve," explains a recent news post, which lays out a system whereby single parties can file a dispute and receive reimbursement for legal fees. "Recently, a number of companies have created similar provisions which have generated lots of discussion from customers and communities, and we’ve been following these discussions closely. On Steam, whenever a customer is unhappy with any transaction, our first goal is to resolve things as quickly as possible through the normal customer support process. However in those instances in which we can't resolve a dispute, we've outlined a new required process whereby we agree to use arbitration or small claims court to resolve the dispute. In the arbitration process, Valve will reimburse your costs of the arbitration for claims under a certain amount. Reimbursement by Valve is provided regardless of the arbitrator’s decision, provided that the arbitrator does not determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable."
However, the post then argues that class action lawsuits "do not benefit us or our communities" - and in reaction to other companies (notably Sony) implementing a similar EULA clause, the updated Steam Subscriber Agreement bars Steam subscribers from participating in one.
"YOU AND VALVE AGREE NOT TO BRING OR PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE ACTION, PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL ACTION OR COLLECTIVE ARBITRATION, EVEN IF AAA’s PROCEDURES OR RULES WOULD OTHERWISE ALLOW ONE. THE ARBITRATOR MAY AWARD RELIEF ONLY IN FAVOR OF THE INDIVIDUAL PARTY SEEKING RELIEF AND ONLY TO THE EXTENT OF THAT PARTY’S INDIVIDUAL CLAIM. You and Valve also agree not to seek to combine any action or arbitration with any other action or arbitration without the consent of all parties to this Agreement and all other actions or arbitrations."
As mentioned above, and in the new SSA, this legislation won't necessarily apply to those outside the US. Here in Europe, we're protected by EU consumer law, so as such there's not much to worry about (essentially this clause will either not take effect or will be theoretically laughed out of court). Conversely, Valve may have slightly more to worry about, seeing as Green Man Gaming believe that consumer pressure (probably a class action lawsuit) will eventually force digital distributors to facilitate a resale system now that EU gamers have the right to sell on their game licenses.
We'll wait to see what happens - which in the short term, will probably be absolutely nothing at all. As in, we'll keep playing games and enjoying the sales and service.