Steam’s Sub Agreement Prohibits Class-Action Lawsuits

By RPS on August 1st, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

Legally binding agreements that rule out class-action lawsuits are nothing new on our little slice of the technological frontier. In fact, last year it basically became the thing all the cool kids were doing, with Microsoft, Sony, and EA each sneaking similar clauses into those George R. R. Martin-length novels people scroll past when they start new games. Valve, however, is taking an intriguingly different approach. The company who’s been known to show up to parties with a nametag that reads “Hello, my name is ‘PC gaming’” put out an announcement detailing the exact reasoning behind the change, and it promises this is just as much about customers’ best interests as it is Valve’s.

For the uninitiated, a class-action lawsuit involves a large group of people issuing a single, collective suit. Valve, however, argues that this rarely helps anyone in the long run, so it’s offering a different solution – in which it foots the bill for your court fees, no less.

“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 [$10,000]. 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.”

“Most significant to the new dispute resolution terms is that customers may now only bring individual claims, not class action claims. We considered this change very carefully. It’s clear to us that in some situations, class actions have real benefits to customers. In far too many cases however, class actions don’t provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims. We think this new dispute resolution process is faster and better for you and Valve while avoiding unnecessary costs, and that it will therefore benefit the community as a whole.”

So it certainly sounds altruistic, and – this being Valve – there could very well be nothing but good intentions driving it. Intentions, however, only go so far, and this still leaves the door open for some potentially less-than-scrupulous dealings. For instance, as Ars Technica points out, this new Subscriber Agreement grants Valve the power to scatter the pitchforks and torches of movements related to widespread bans – even in cases where players have already paid for their games. Honestly, we wouldn’t care even if we were dealing with Gandhi And His Best Friend, A Baby Hedgehog Who Can Only Communicate With Hugs, Corp. We’d still be worried about a company possessing complete legal immunity from these sorts of things.

At this point, then, we have a couple options: 1) watch and wait or 2) click the big, bad “disagree” button when Valve’s latest proclamation descends from on-high. As of writing, however, we’re not exactly sure where the second option will leave your games. But, if you’re locked out of Steam, well, the implication’s not great. So that’s problematic.

With this in mind, we spoke to lawyer Alex Chapman of Sheridans to ask if this could really stand up. It is, as you’d expect, complicated.

Chapman explains that as a business move, it makes sense. In the US, the legal system does not require a losing party to pay the costs of the other side in such cases. So no matter how dubious a case brought against Valve, they’ll always be required to pay their legal fees to defend themselves. This, Chapman tells us, is why there’s such a culture of trademark and patent “trolls” over there. And that’s not something Valve wants to be batting away. “Valve will be worried about class actions because most claims that Valve face will be for relatively small amounts and would not normally even go near a lawyer, let alone a court,” he tells us. “However in a class action, plaintiffs, who might individually have a very small claim, may combine to have a claim that is worth suing over.”

And as such, it’s in Valve’s interests to create conditions where this can’t happen. But how effective is that likely to be? Can you just rule yourself out of legal processes?

“In some jurisdictions this provision would not be enforceable,” explains the legal eagle, “since generally speaking the law that applies in consumer related cases is the local law where the consumer is located.” Each country’s laws could completely contradict Valve’s attempts to prevent class action suits, and possibly even individual State laws within the US. “In the UK,” Chapman continues, “it may be considered to be an unfair contract term.”

Further, this attempt to prevent class action lawsuits by Valve won’t be taken seriously until – funnily enough – someone attempts a class action lawsuit against Valve. Chapman explains, “Perhaps most significantly is that if there is any possibility that this term could be challenged then the first thing a litigator would do is to bring a class action to challenge the validity and enforceability of the contract term (or to do so as part of the class action itself). The effect is the same, namely that a claim would be brought against the party relying on the terms and that party would have to defend the claim or settle it. It would just so happen that the first part of the claim would deal with enforceability.”

So in the end, like most of what’s written in a EULA, it’s more about what the company hopes will be law, rather than what actually is. And as ever, until such inclusions are legally challenged, no one has any idea if they’re at all enforceable. Which in Valve’s case will take a group starting a class action lawsuit against them. Law, eh?

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200 Comments »

  1. NightShift says:

    I’ve read this post twice(I’m a fast reader) and still I have no idea what this means. Can someone explain it to me?

    • pakoito says:

      You have to sue valve by yourself for anything they did to you. You cannot band together with a lot of other angry people (with a similar problem) under the same lawyer and sue them as a group.

      • NightShift says:

        I know valve made their mistakes, but I hope this doesn’t count as a free pass for them to mess up as they wish then win lawsuits against them.

      • adonf says:

        Actually a class action is not simply banding together, it means that even customers who did not take part in the lawsuit can receive a part of the settlement as long as they qualify (for instance if they have a Steam account on a given date or if they bought a specific game). I don’t know if it’s possible in the US system for a group of customer to start a collective action in their own name, and not in the name of all customers who were potentially wronged (that would be a class action) ; or if each customer needs to start their own suit.

        Regarding the Steam agreement, I recently received a notification for a US$ 9 Million class action against DVD rental service Netflix and I think that 25% of these nine millions will go into lawyer fees while only $30,000 will go to the customers (I don’t known where the 6.7 million rest goes). Small claims court and arbitration don’t seem so bad after all.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          The majority of the funds go to the individuals who put up their own money and resources to bring the suit.

          The difference is that most of us can’t afford to sit in court for weeks, losing our incomes.

        • ocelot113 says:

          Class action lawsuits against a video game distributor is a damn shame and shows how entitled our country has gotten. Class action makes sense for drugs that do harm to people or food that hospitalizes people. If you want your money back from a game distributor then bring them to court yourself. If it’s not worth it to you then you have no business wasting tax money on a court room.

          Frankly it’s an insult to people that have real life problems with incompetent companies and Valve is not one.

          • jalf says:

            So you’re assuming that Valve will never do anything that might warrant such a suit? That’s kind of a silly logic.

            If they don’t do anything that warrants a class action suit, then whether or not we sign away the right to sue them is irrelevant.

            But if they do something bad, then the “yes, but Valve are the good guys, it’s an insult towards, well, everything, to want to sue them”-defense does not hold up.

            In other words, what you’re saying makes no sense.

          • ocelot113 says:

            I’m saying Steam’s products aren’t contributing to lung cancer or emphysema or an actual physical ailment with which I can see a legitimate case for class action. The worst that they do is forget to give you a game that you paid $60 for. You don’t need class action for that.

            I’m saying they can’t do anything, based on their product, to warrant a class action. Class action should be used seriously not for a $60 reimbursement.

          • Shooop says:

            The fact they have that kind of power now is more than a little worrying jalf.

          • adonf says:

            It’s not just $60 games. They have your personal information including credit card data and they could sell it (unlikely) or get lazy regarding security and get hacked (more likely), then it’s not just $60 that’s at stake.

            But anyways, class actions are a way for consumers to defend their rights and for lawyers to get ridiculously rich. One of these is a good thing, whether it’s $60 or lung cancer.

          • MrCrun says:

            If they banned me with out cause, it would be a $5832 problem for me according to the steam calculator. For most users of steam a ban would almost never just be a case of 60 dollars. Since we’re talking “worst case” anyway.

          • The Random One says:

            Class action suits aren’t common in the US because Americans are entitled (although they are) but rather because their costumer rights are so poorly enforced that that’s often the only way to get any compensation for legitimate slights. A sane country would assure those complaints are dealt with quickly and fairly before they reach the courts.

          • ocelot113 says:

            ^^ Can’t disagree with that one. Ultimately is our faults though for voting in terrible people to office.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Really? NOTHING they can do warrants a class-action suit?

            Including if they, say, were storing customer payment information unencrypted and had it stolen?

            Because that’s certainly happened to other companies in the past, even if it isn’t likely to happen with Valve.

            You’re saying that there is nothing they could ever possibly do, now or in the infinite future, that would warrant a class action lawsuit – and I’m saying that you’re not a psychic.

    • Fuzzball says:

      Steam is now saying that if you want to sue them, they’ll pay the court fees. However, you can’t band together to make a more threatening (to them) case. They’re hoping that the vast majority of cases, since they’ll now be “just one angry dude”, will never go to court (and they won’t have to pay too many court fees).

    • Chalky says:

      Hijacking this thread a little bit but I have to say how much I appreciate RPS going to the trouble of actually asking a legal expert about what this means in reality. All the other articles I’ve seen about this have basically said “OMG LOOK WHAT THEY’VE DONE!” without any indication as to whether or not it’s actually enforceable.

      • syndrome says:

        I agree. RPS journalism is sadly, but fortunately, much more objective, intelligent, and informative when compared with some other “more serious” agencies handling real world events and stuff of much greater importance.

        This will change however — the games will become political instruments — as soon as these motherfuckers fully embrace the subculture. Games are fantastic medium for conveying perfect emotions, and allow its creators to apply a demagogy without a precedent.

        I wonder how soon it will happen without any of us knowing its happening. Who can explain CoD sales? You really think people are that stupid? No, people ARE buying it, but only AFTER they learned it’s SUCCESSFUL. That’s how things roll nowadays: people never question the numbers.

        Firstly, it’s always the best to divert any suspicion and controversy by letting the figures speak for themselves. That way you start to believe that it’s impossible to skew those numbers and that people indeed bought so much copies, or have that many Facebook accounts. You start believing in something that gives away implicit but false estimations. It’s the way the stock exchange works. Great fortunes always start with small lies. An exaggerated remark, one missed digit, buying too much, false accusations, all are designed to modify the perceived value, not the real one. Essentially, this is called the arbitrage, an omnipresent valuation principle among the humans.

        If everybody speaks of something, it must be popular, right? Humans, however, rarely question why is everybody speaking of something.

        Secondly, you allow your minions to fight with each other. This kind of hate is good, as it fuels their passion, provides them with artificial goals and biases in their social setting, divides people into competitive clans, and generally makes everyone more submissive towards the government, because they’ve depleted their energy to question and fight.

        People become empty shells, a lone islands who pay their taxes, and hate each other over a controversial choice that was actually served to them as a controversial prefab.

        I’m just sad people cannot realize that today’s lies are much deeper, yet so simple and naive in its form, that you can’t even question them without social pressure and prejudice (esp. if a sacrifice of an innocent human was involved). Even if someone has the balls to fight it to the end, (s)he’ll end up poor and ridiculed.

        Democracy my ass. Sorry for the off topic.

      • Igor Hardy says:

        Yeah, and “Is this enforceable” was exactly what I was wondering about while reading the first part of the article. So big kudos to RPS for clearing that one up – i.e. confirming that it’s not clear at all.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Indeed; this is the standard I expect from RPS.

        As for Valve, if anyone feels the need to ‘explain’ that something is for your benefit, it probably isn’t.

    • cyrenic says:

      The article means they delayed Episode 3 another year so they could come up with a new EULA.

    • Smashbox says:

      I’m not a lawyer, so grain of salt, etc., but my lawyer-in-training brother told me that you can’t technically forfeit your legal rights in a contract. I.e. it’s illegal to make customers waive the right to sue. In the US, I mean.

      Many companies still include these clauses, however.

  2. bit_crusherrr says:

    At least Sony let you opt out.

    Doesn’t effect me thankfully but I feel for your Ameribros.

    • reggiep says:

      That was actually misreported. You can’t opt out with Sony either.

      • Kaira- says:

        You could opt out, but it required sending a physical letter saying you opt out from the “no class-action lawuits”-clause.

  3. frankie bee says:

    isn’t it quite simple that you as a citizen can never sign an agreement in which you sign away your rights?

    • Johnny Lizard says:

      This is my understanding too, which is why I always just click “yes” to everything without reading it.

    • sonofsanta says:

      IANAL but I was always under the impression that this was true in UK law, yes.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Yep, I am pretty sure this is only a valid clause in the US. In Europe, you can’t agree to something that takes away your right to sue.

      • frymaster says:

        since class action suits don’t exist in the UK anyway, it hardly matters

    • meatshit says:

      Yes, but filing a class-action lawsuit is not a right in the US, at least according to a Supreme Court case against AT&T from last year.

    • dsi1 says:

      Pretty much this, I wonder if we can start a class action lawsuit against this though, that’d be fucking poetic.

  4. Eophasmus says:

    It’s a shame this is even an issue in this damned sue-happy world of ours. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the change as it’s unlikely to affect me, but it is a somewhat concerning removal of rights.

    • bglamb says:

      To be fair though, if you have an honest claim against Valve, doesn’t this make things much better? Previously, if I’d thought that I had a good legal claim against them, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the cost. Now they pay it.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Here in the UK, the costs are likely to only be £25 – I imagine there are similar courts in every country – low cost designed for small cases and set up so that expert legal advise is not necessary.

      • mouton says:

        In arbitrage. Which is not your local court and may be governed by rules that are not very good for your cause.

        • weego says:

          class action suits benefit no one other than the lawyers (unless you find a cheque for 30 cents useful) , and is a “me too” bandwagon, there are very few instances where a class action is anything other than crass. If there is a genuine cause then suing as a single entity is a much better bet anyway.

          And let’s be honest, its a PC game or distribution system being the thing at risk. In the UK the chances of any kind of damages realistically being above small claims court are negligible so it’s nothing more than a small filing fee and then turning up at court one afternoon.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            While it may not benefit the people affected by the issue too much, it can highlight an issue which will either make companies think again before trying that tactic or test an element of the law, clarifying how courts intend to interpret it.

  5. rocketman71 says:

    Is it legal?. Probably not.

    Is it ethical?. Absolutely not.

    I hate days in which Valve grows a bit more EA-y. Today is one of those. Shame on you, Gaben.

    • hello_mr.Trout says:

      could you explain more fully the ethical ramifications of this move? i don’t fully grasp how it all works – for example; in what instance would a gamer, or group of gamers want or need to launch a class action against valve for? has there ever been class-actions against them before? what is your take on them paying up to $10,000 for court fees? just a ‘sweetener’? i tried to read some of the legal agreement, but i don’t speak legalese, so it all went over my head :/

      • Pazguato says:

        Can this be related to the EU cort rejecting digital games can’t be resold?

        • nimzy says:

          I’m guessing it’s this entirely and they didn’t want to say it.

          I can picture Valve’s legal team losing sleep at night imagining a class action lawsuit that gives Steam’s customers the right to sell and trade their game licenses as they see fit. Oh the EULAs that would break, oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the publishers with their exclusive distribution agreements.

          Now you just go to arbitration, which decides in favor of the corporation nine times out of ten.

      • mouton says:

        Have you ever had a problem with your neighbour? Has he ever murdered anyone? He is nice, is he not? So why don’t you revoke your law to call police when he breaks your stuff or murders your daughter. After all, he is nice and nothing can ever happen.

        • reggiep says:

          Yeah, that’s not even close to a good analogy. Not even in the same solar system…

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Once again, someone is trying to make an analogy between civil and criminal law. They are not the same and are not comparable.

          • mouton says:

            Both are tools that can defend you from something. Just because you probably won’t need them, doesn’t mean it is cool to revoke them.

          • The Random One says:

            I crossed this street many times and was never run over, so from now on I’ll do it with my eyes closed.

            Is this a better analogy or is being run over also criminal law?

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @mouton & therandomone – Do you really want me to describe to you in detail the difference between civil and criminal law? Really, are you that dumb you can’t tell the difference between breaking the laws of the land and entering into a legal dispute with someone?

            Rightyho, here we go.

            The difference between civil law and criminal law turns on the difference between two different objects which law seeks to pursue – redress or punishment. The object of civil law is the redress of wrongs by compelling compensation or restitution: the wrongdoer is not punished; he only suffers so much harm as is necessary to make good the wrong he has done. The person who has suffered gets a definite benefit from the law, or at least he avoids a loss. On the other hand, in the case of crimes, the main object of the law is to punish the wrongdoer; to give him and others a strong inducement not to commit same or similar crimes, to reform him if possible and perhaps to satisfy the public sense that wrongdoing ought to meet with retribution.

            Too dry?

            Have an easier to understand version:

            Definition:

            Civil law deals with the disputes between individuals, organizations, or between the two, in which compensation is awarded to the victim.

            Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses.

            Burden of Proof:

            Civil Law: “Preponderance of evidence” Burden of proof is initially on the plaintiff and then switches to the defendants.

            Criminal Law: “Beyond a reasonable doubt”: Burden of proof is always on the state/government.

            Examples:

            Civil Law: Landlord/tenant disputes, divorce proceedings, child custody proceedings, property disputes (real estate or material), etc.

            Criminal Law: Theft (by deception or unlawful taking), assault, robbery, wanton endangerment, trafficking in controlled substances, alcohol intoxication, etc.

            Type of Punishment:

            A defendant in civil litigation is never incarcerated and never executed. Losing defendant in civil litigation only reimburses the plaintiff for losses caused by the defendant’s behavior. Either party (plaintiff or defendant) can be found at fault.

            Criminal Law: A guilty defendant is punished by either incarceration in a jail or fine paid to the government, or, in exceptional cases, the death penalty. Crimes are divided into two broad classes: Felonies and Misdemeanors. Defendant can be found guilty or not.

            Case Filed By:

            Civil Law: Private party

            Criminal Law: Government

            Appeal:

            Either party may appeal a decision in a civil suit.

            Only the defendant may appeal a court ruling in a criminal case. The prosecution cannot appeal if the defendant is found not guilty.

            Jury:

            Civil Law: 6-12 jury members possible. All must reach a verdict in which 2/3 of the jurors agree.

            Criminal Law: 12 jury members required. Decision must be unanimous. If an agreement cannot be reached the court will declare a mistrial.

            So TheRandomOne, let me ask you, with your newfound knowledge, if you run someone over, have you broken criminal law or is it a civil dispute.

            Written your answer down? Good, let’s look. Nope, wrong. The correct answer is “You have not provided enough information to be able to answer that question. Further information like what happened after the incident, what was each person doing before the incident and in what context did the incident take place would be needed before this question can be answered.”

          • Devan says:

            @Sheng-ji
            Thanks for the breakdown (really). That’s interesting to know.

            I think the point that many of the above posters are trying to make, though, is simply that it is not good to sign away one’s ability to pursue any particular legal process.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I do actually completely agree with that sentiment, I really do but the issue is important enough without making ridiculous similes – that kind of thing weakens our position.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          Congratulations, you win the Worst Analogy of the Century award.

          Not only would your neighbour let you call the police, but he also promises to pay your phone bill even in the case where he turned out to be innocent. What you can’t do is call the police and tell them about his entire past history of breaking other people’s stuff.

          • mouton says:

            No, he forbids me calling the police. He insists on calling some dude he knows who is reportedly good at judging and stuff. And he will pay my expenses, unless said dude decides I was making more fuss than he thinks was appropriate.

        • genearious says:

          More comparable would be you signing not to band together with your neighbors and sue the one neighbor, because he’s so nice. Then if he steals every persons TV in the neighborhood you’re all allowed to sue him individually and he’ll even pay for court fees, but you can’t band together and get a really expensive lawyer to counter his really expensive lawyer, but would have to rely on yourself because you don’t get a court appointed lawyer in small claims court. Also apparently your neighbor agreed to pay for the TV he stole regardless of the outcome if it seems that he stole it according to him(seems oddly unenforceable?)

      • schizopol says:

        Even though self-defense is really the perspective Valve is coming from, the potential dangers to the consumer outweigh their own corporate safety.

        Take yesterdays ubiplay disaster as an example. if bad code leaves a backdoor for malicious hackers, that’s something people might get upset over. But from the publisher’s perspective, it’s just a little oversight, right. Frivolous! We fixed it right away! That’s all well and good but if this thing had blown up, running malicious software and nixing personal information from a wide array of users, then class action might have been necessary to ensure ubisoft isn’t coding their products by this design philosophy integrating ill-conceived “features” to be exploited. But with arbitration selected by the company, there’s hardly any room for argument.

        How about last fall’s carrier IQ scandal? Recall the outrage when users discovered every keystroke on their android phones recorded and transmitted to their provider. Those people unwittingly agreed to this in their contracts so there was no class action suit, and the media outrage died down after a few months. So what’s the deterrent to phone carriers from continuing this crooked practice? There’s really nothing stopping them from this kind of behavior. That’s why people hate giving up this right, because protecting consumers interests is what class action is about, its nothing to do with getting every little user $10 in compensation. It is, as has been said, a punch in the face to businesses for unacceptable misconduct and recklessness.

        • reggiep says:

          Except the company could potentially pay out more in damages through arbitration than the class action. Sure it’s punitive, but the lawyers are the ones who make out the most. In practice, the company will likely pay out more per individual but far less overall. Who has time to go through arbitration?

          Valve covering the arbitration costs is also interesting. It changes the dynamic quite a bit.

          • schizopol says:

            Arbitration dictated by a corporation, paid for by a corporation… what else do I need to say? There is no chance punitive action from arbitration will cost valve more than they put into the system. It makes the arbitration agent too much money, and valve can simply choose a new arbiter should they ever have a problem with The (Non-Proft) American Arbitration Association.

            and valve covering arbitration costs changes this in what way? I hear this ”argument”, but it’s not at all a benefit to the consumer. It seems to imply to me that valve pays the arbitration agent their salary. Wouldn’t that only strengthen the impression that “the house always wins?” You expect anyone to think something different? Arbitration is a suspension of consumer rights, plain and simple.

            As for “troll lawsuits” they have the potential to cause undue cost, granted. But calling up a lawsuit isn’t free, and lawyers have their own overhead costs on both sides of the suit. To go chasing waterfalls here, there needs be a reasonable shot at success; this would entail a legitimate claim to suit, or something resembling one. Should any one case go forward? Maybe, maybe not! But who is to say it should not go forward? The defendant? Certainly not the corporation!

            Removing your consumer base from the law of the land as per ‘subscription agreement’ is legal. However, i’ll be damned if it doesn’t fit right in with all the other policies which place corporations ahead of our law in the US.

      • reggiep says:

        Imagine valve was hacked (shouldn’t be hard because it actually happened) and passwords and credit cards were leaked. Imagine it was related to some negligence on Valve’s part and that opened them up to a class action suit. If this worked out as Valve wants, you would not be able to successfully seek class action damages from Valve. You would have to go through arbitration.

        It’s quite possible that you could receive more damages through arbitration than you would see in the class action. Certainly Valve will have to pay out less in damages even if each individual claim is higher. Less people will be paid damages, and Valve will pay less damages overall. More people will receive no damages at all though. Decide for yourself the ethics of that.

  6. D3xter says:

    There’s also other changes coming with the new Subscriber Agreement (I couldn’t find much changed with the Privacy Agreement on a first look-through, they just formulated some things differently or moved it around)
    You can still find the old one here: http://web.archive.org/web/20110716134311/http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/
    I used a compare tool to check against the new version: http://www.text-compare.com/

    The main change for the EU as far as I could see involves founding “Valve S.a.r.l.” in Luxembourg and everyone residing in the EU now being a customer to them instead of Valve Corporation in the US, although I don’t particularly know what that entails legally.

    There was also a bit that seemed like a response to the new EU ruling in Section 1:

    “nor may you sell, charge others for the right to use, or transfer any Subscriptions other than if and as expressly permitted by this Agreement (including any Subscription Terms or Rules of Use).”

    And in response to people demanding refunds based on EU/UK laws in Section 3:

    “ALL CHARGES INCURRED ON STEAM, AND ALL PURCHASES MADE WITH THE STEAM WALLET, ARE PAYABLE IN ADVANCE AND ARE NOT REFUNDABLE IN WHOLE OR IN PART, REGARDLESS OF THE PAYMENT METHOD, EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THIS AGREEMENT.

    IF YOU ARE AN EU SUBSCRIBER YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO WITHDRAW FROM A PURCHASE TRANSACTION FOR DIGITAL CONTENT WITHOUT CHARGE AND WITHOUT GIVING ANY REASON UNTIL DELIVERY OF SUCH CONTENT HAS STARTED OR PERFORMANCE OF THE SERVICE HAS COMMENCED. YOU DO NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO WITHDRAW FROM A TRANSACTION OR OBTAIN A REFUND ONCE DELIVERY OF THE CONTENT HAS STARTED OR THE PERFORMANCE OF THE SERVICE HAS COMMENCED, AT WHICH POINT YOUR TRANSACTION IS FINAL. YOU AGREE THAT DELIVERY OF DIGITAL CONTENT, AND THE ASSOCIATED SUBSCRIPTION, AND/OR PERFORMANCE OF THE ASSOCIATED SERVICE, COMMENCES AT THE MOMENT THE DIGITAL CONTENT IS ADDED TO YOUR ACCOUNT OR INVENTORY OR OTHERWISE MADE ACCESSIBLE TO YOU FOR DOWNLOAD OR USE.”

    A new change in regards to the usage of VPN/Proxies…
    It’s always good to know that companies reserve their rights to make full use of globalization (buy materials and use support staff where it is the cheapest etc.), but when it comes to the consumers using the same advantages they are suddenly “not allowed”, GoG also manages to offer the same price Worldwide just fine.

    “You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, we may terminate your access to your Account.”

    Section 6 regarding “User Generated Information” (e.g. chat, forum posts, names, usage data and others) has been changed from “you expressly grant Valve the complete and irrevocable right to use” to “you expressly grant Valve and its affiliates the complete and irrevocable right to use” (in two places), which means they might share that data with 3rd parties without your consent now.

    A clarification of Valves rights towards terminating your account in TERMS AND TERMINATION in Section 10 instead of a longer version granting more rights previously:

    “Valve may cancel your Account or any particular Subscription(s) at any time. In the event that your Account or a particular Subscription is terminated or cancelled by Valve for a violation of this Agreement or improper or illegal activity, no refund, including of any Subscription fees, will be granted.”

    And of course, if you don’t agree with any or some of that your only recourse is apparently to “terminate your account” and lose all the games (e.g. they are holding your games hostage to agree to their new terms), while they have the right to change or amend the “Subscriber Agreement” at any point in time for any reason according to Section 9:

    “Your failure to cancel your Account, or cease use of the Subscription(s) affected by the amendment, within thirty (30) days after receiving notification of the amendment, will constitute your acceptance of the amended terms. If you don’t agree to the amendments or to any of the terms in this Agreement, your only remedy is to cancel your Account or to cease use of the affected Subscription(s). Valve shall not have any obligation to refund any fees that may have accrued to your Account before cancellation of your Account or cessation of use of any Subscription, nor shall Valve have any obligation to prorate any fees in such circumstances.”

    • mondomau says:

      Hmmm. I am quite cross now.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      “nor may you sell, charge others for the right to use, or transfer any Subscriptions other than if and as expressly permitted by this Agreement (including any Subscription Terms or Rules of Use).”

      I’m certainly no expert on these matters, but surely a user agreement can’t “override” European Law like this. For instance if the Apple EULA says “you give us your consent to kidnap your family”, it wouldn’t have any legal value whether you agreed to it or not.

      • D3xter says:

        It can’t and it won’t, EULAs are often not really legally binding or considered null and void in large parts of the EU if some things apply e.g. you bought a product and entered a purchase agreement with another party before seeing and having to agree to said contract or if it goes against applicable law.
        Corporations don’t write “laws” just yet and they’re more like wish lists of what they would want to be true (it’s a different case in the US though, as they’ve been upheld quite a few times, but also turned down about as often).

        That’s also the reason why a lot of these companies (say even SONY over the Hacking attempt or Microsoft etc.) would rather not have something like this decided by a legally binding verdict and if they see that someone is being serious they would rather attempt to settle outside of court so they can keep their imaginary rights and step over people unwilling to go to court over it just a bit longer and try to lobby for laws in their interests.
        If they try and fail they could just create a precedent and do something like this: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2006956,00.html

        They’re a good way to gauge the intent of a company and what they would *like* to be true and legally enforceable though, and personally I’m still pissed over this whole “you buy our products but don’t have any ownership over them, because they’re *Subscriptons* you see” thing they have going on…
        We need some legal precedents and laws in favor of the consumers regarding that as soon as possible.

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          not really legally binding or considered null and void in large parts of the EU

          Guess the lawyers that companies pay to write, draft, amend & approve their EULA’s are going to be fucked by some other laywers that company employs in that case. How could they be so dumb to leave themselves open to such a legal challenge?

          Oh wait…

          D3xter: Internet lawyer extraordinaire.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            EULAs have never been tested in court in any significant way. They’re mainly scare tatics.

            An appeal to authority (as you are doing) is no better than dimissing them outright.

          • D3xter says:

            You can look this stuff up you know…

            Just because they won’t get through with it doesn’t mean they won’t try to protect their imaginary rights, and just because it’s not legally binding doesn’t mean that people will sue them and risk costs of somewhere around 10.000€ or more on what would entail a 50€ purchase or similar.
            Rulings like this wouldn’t come to be if they were in such “safe waters” as you seem to believe, from the Court Justice no less: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/07/03/crikey-eu-rules-you-can-resell-downloaded-games/

            In Germany for instance EULAs are only then effective if they have been presented to you before purchasing a product. If you have concluded a purchase and are presented with them after the fact they are void, even if you click “I Agree”, it doesnt matter.

            Even IF they have been presented and agreed upon purchase their effectiveness can be largely restricted, they are considered to be AGBs (Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen) and are subject to the laws detailed in the BGB (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch).
            A lot of the sections will be ineffective/void for private customers of said software because they are considered unilateral and restrictive (§ 307 BGB) or they impinge on concrete regulations detailed in 308 or 309.

            It doesn’t matter how highly paid said lawyers are, they can’t rewrite local law or circumvent state-given consumer protection, they are mostly used for writing the US EULAs anyway (where they seem to have much greater effect and importance), and are often just translated and worded slightly different. It also doesn’t hurt to try and instill fear of punishment in their customers or bluff that they simply won’t go to court over what they might consider a minor issue or loss (or that they aren’t adults knowledgeable about their rights, with it being games and all).

      • Azdeus says:

        Surely you have’nt forgotten that that ruling does’nt apply to “Subscription” services, have you?

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          No, according to Steam I have “purchased licenses”. Nothing in my account history or email receipts does it say anything about having paid for a “subscription”

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Just because steam describes something as a subscription doesn’t necessarily mean that the courts will agree with them.

          I could “sell” you a candlestick and describe it as a rental and tell you that you must not change your address without telling me where my candlestick has gone.

          If you move and don’t tell me, the courts will look at our contract, see that I accepted money once when you took it, see there is no way you can stop your rental and recoup some of your money, see that there is no recurring charge and tell me that it wasn’t a rental it was a sale and tell me to stop being a dick.

          Notice if you “buy” a game from steam, you add it to your cart, an obvious parallel to a shopping trolley in a supermarket – not a parallel to subscribing to something.

          Next you are presented with two buttons – Purchase for myself or purchase for a friend. Note, once again the button does not say subscribe. Purchase is by far the most prominent word and most people associate the word purchase with the word buy and courts pay attention to how target customers tend to use words.

          There is no way they will be able to enforce this stance in a European court.

          • Azdeus says:

            No, the whole point about this change was the subscription bit, they’ve stated their intent and they have the power to argue from there.
            Your subscription “fee” is them showing ads for their sales to you.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Not airtight. It is perfectly possible to “buy” a game and never be exposed to advertising from steam. Steam does not record how much advertising you have seen, there is not even a basic system to track how much advertising has been sent to you, or at least there wasn’t.

            If they can’t track your advertising consumption, they can’t ensure you have watched enough or any. This means that, as far as the courts are concerned, they do not care about how much advertising you have consumed. Which means they don’t care if you have paid your “subscription fees”. Which means that they are not treating this as a subscription, but as a sale. Which means it was a sale.

          • Azdeus says:

            It’s not airtight for us, certainly, because we(Or atleast, me) do not know what data Valve has or has’nt saved. You still pay Valve to use Steam, you just pay “By amount of use” when you purchase an item from their store, a game with a calculated lifespan.

            They can make this airtight enough, even though we can’t.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            It’s simple, you have a right to know what data valve holds that can be traced to you in most countries in the world. Here in the UK it comes under the Data Protection Act. Just write to them with your request and under law they can charge you up to £30 (they didn’t charge me a penny) and they have to comply with your request in a timely manner (11 working days for my request).

            Regardless, the important thing here is that they will never stop you using your games because you haven’t viewed enough advertising. This is the critical thing here.

          • Llewyn says:

            No, really they can’t – at least not without a further significant change to the Agreement, probably one which would limit the life of “purchases”.

            Two things. You seem to be forgetting that the EC ruling specifically stated that calling something a subscription did not make it a subscription (which is, in any case, well established principle already), and that a single payment for access which was not time limited did not constitute a subscription. Secondly, hidden tracking could not constitute a subscription payment; the basis of the subscription would have to be clear for it to be regarded as a subscription payment.

            There are also potential issues around Valve’s use of “Purchase” when “purchasing games” through Steam.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Also, valve do not pay VAT to the UK for any advertising they serve. There are limited instances in which a company can not pay VAT and the only one which applies here is that they are providing a completely free service. Valve, from the taxmans perspective, are providing advertising as a free informative service to us. If they claim that the advertising is in fact a subscription fee, then they would be liable to pay VAT on every advert served.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Thanks for posting those excerpts—very helpful!

    • D3xter says:

      There’s also this new bit about the “Steam Marketplace” too, which kind of blows the mind and makes it even more clear on what kind of thin ice they are treading with the whole “Subscription” and “licensing” thing, although it says that they may terminate it at any point and you may lose any or all items in your inventory.

      D. The Steam Trading Marketplace.

      Valve may operate a trading marketplace where certain types of Subscriptions (for example, license rights to virtual items) can be traded between Subscribers (the “Steam Trading Marketplace”). By participating in the Steam Trading Marketplace, you authorize Valve, on its own behalf or as an agent or licensee of any third-party publisher of the applicable Subscriptions in your Account, to transfer those Subscriptions from your Account in order to give effect to any trade you make within the Steam Trading Marketplace.

      You understand and acknowledge that Valve may decide to cease operation of the Steam Trading Marketplace, or change the terms or features of the Steam Trading Marketplace, in the future. Valve shall have no liability to you because of any inability to trade Subscriptions in the Steam Trading Marketplace, including because of discontinuation or changes in the terms, features or eligibility requirements of the Steam Trading Marketplace.
      You also understand and acknowledge that Subscriptions traded in the Steam Trading Marketplace are license rights, that you have no ownership interest in such Subscriptions, and that Valve does not recognize any transfers (including transfers by operation of law) of Subscriptions that are made outside of the Steam Trading Marketplace.

  7. Hoaxfish says:

    Just a quick thing, there was also something new about users in Europe having to deal with a Europe-specific branch of Valve… I assume this was in response to that EU ruling that digital goods can be resold, but nobody seems to have covered that.

  8. Geofferic says:

    More and more these clauses (and the clauses forcing people into arbitration) are being successfully challenged, primarily because they are anti-consumer and anti-justice. Further, courts do not want 1000 separate cases on the same subject, and may even force a series of cases into a class action even when they think the clause is valid.

    These are called “contracts of adhesion” and, traditionally, are invalid on their face. There is no “arm’s length” negotiation, not “meeting of the minds”, no actual ability to discuss terms – in other words, these are not even traditionally contracts.

    I look forward to all of this corporate greed collapsing in on itself and making all of these contracts – EULA’s, etc – flatly invalid and a violation of your civil rights (as they are – you have contract rights in the US constitution – not merely citizens have this right – and in most other parts of the world similar rights are expressed in law).

    • Herkimer says:

      Er.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T_Mobility_v._Concepcion

      At least in the US, you have it precisely backwards. Successful challenges to arb clauses and class action forfeits are growing increasingly rare.

      You also misstate the validity of adhesive contracts. Even in those jurisdictions that had problems with adhesion contracts (there were a significant minority of jurisdictions which held that, if faced with a “take it or leave it” contract, your option was to leave it), the problem was with the unenforceability of certain clauses within the contract, not the contract as a whole. Ruling that adhesive contracts are facially invalid wouldn’t serve people very well, since they’re often things like employment contracts and property leases.

      And really, these days, in light of modern statutory and caselaw, we don’t worry much about adhesive contracts period. When I was practicing for the California courts, when faced with a contract dispute we’d often throw in some boilerplate about adhesion, just to make sure we’d dotted the eyes, but I can’t remember a single contract clause we found invalid due to adhesion.

  9. nasenbluten says:

    It is an agreement not a law so they can do whatever they want, local laws apply over anything they make you agree to.

  10. ZHsquad says:

    No matter how much sugar and cherries Valve puts on this, I’m uneasy about them limiting my rights in this way (even if it’s highly unlikely I will ever sue them).

    Hopefully it doesn’t go too far.

  11. mondomau says:

    Hold on, how are they allowed to retroactively change the terms of an agreement you’ve already made, holding purchases you have already made to ransom in the process? I’m not all that bothered by the class-action law-suit thing really, but that strikes me as a little bit shady, and I’d quite like to know if it’s even legal in the EU.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      They usually have a clause which is basically “You agree that we can change this EULA at any time”… but EULAs are basically invalid nonsense in the Europe at least.

      I think I’ve had my bank pull a similar “update of terms” though, so I believe there is some legal “allowance” for this sort of thing.

      • mondomau says:

        Surely there should be an ‘opt-out’ function that doesn’t involve throwing away hundreds (or thousands) of pounds worth of purchases though? If you click ‘I disagree’ it just closes the client.

        • BAshment says:

          Why not allow people who opt out a chance to download all their purchases, with the understanding that they can no longer use the client to re download the products.
          I very much doubt they would let this happen but seems like a fair solution.

          • Chris D says:

            I think some publishers may have a problem with allowing you to opt out of their DRM system.

          • BAshment says:

            Most of the big publishers use separate drm as well as steam anyway, but you are right there are many that would object.

    • D3xter says:

      Section 9 says:

      9. AMENDMENTS TO THIS AGREEMENT

      Valve may amend this Agreement (including any Subscription Terms or Rules of Use) at any time in its sole discretion. If Valve amends the Agreement, such amendment shall be effective thirty (30) days after your receiving notice of the amended Agreement, either via e-mail or as a notification within the Software. You can view the Agreement at any time at http://www.steampowered.com/. Your failure to cancel your Account, or cease use of the Subscription(s) affected by the amendment, within thirty (30) days after receiving notification of the amendment, will constitute your acceptance of the amended terms. If you don’t agree to the amendments or to any of the terms in this Agreement, your only remedy is to cancel your Account or to cease use of the affected Subscription(s). Valve shall not have any obligation to refund any fees that may have accrued to your Account before cancellation of your Account or cessation of use of any Subscription, nor shall Valve have any obligation to prorate any fees in such circumstances.

      Which sounds shady at best, but yes that is basically what they are doing, holding all your games and financial investment into the service hostage in order for you to click “I Agree”, although the entire legality of EULAs in general is shady at best in the EU and very often not applicable if not presented before purchase or going against applicable local law.

      People have been arguing that it could be considered as being forced to “sign” an agreement under duress in the US (for losing hundreds or thousands of dollars), which would also mean it would not be valid.

      • mondomau says:

        Yeah, caveat emptor I guess. I highly doubt it will hold up in court though – which may be one of the reasons they are trying to avoid large scale actions?

    • bglamb says:

      It’s necessary due to the way the ‘service’ works. I mean, it is a service, not a product. It’s necessary for Steam to retain its integrity that you can’t just take your games ‘off’ steam (it would be too easy to abuse), and there’s no way they could offer you a refund for your entire catalogue. That could cost thousands and be easily abused too.

      Similarly, it is necessary that they be able to chance their EULA. These things all add together to mean that Steam need to be able to do this and, as a consumer, you cannot do anything about it. If you think about the system, its clear why it is necessary.

      None of this changes the laws that protect you though. You cannot just opt yourself out of the protection of law. If Valve decided to take all your stuff, without good reason, then you would have a very strong case against them to refund you.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        They should be able to, if you don’t agree to the change in EULA restrict your access to the steam store without changing your access to your games – i.e you can continue to play the games you have but you can’t purchase more until you agree to the terms those games are being sold under.

        • bglamb says:

          Can you not imagine how much of a headache that would be for them to keep on top of? They’d have customers on 10 different versions of their lisences all using the service. Steam cannot release their games seperately to the service, and they cannot have different people using the service under different lisences, that would be madness!

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I’m sure with these newfangled computational machines, each account not currently agreeing to the latest EULA can have access to the store webpage automatically replaced with a notice. This would have the effect of preventing a customer who does not agree to the current EULA from buying more games whilst simultaneously allowing the customer to play his or her games that he or she already purchased. As long as valve keep a record of which EULA was the latest each customer agreed to and which games each customer owns, they are golden.

    • Unaco says:

      This sort of clause is certainly not unique to Valve/Steam, and most EULAs will have something similar to what D3Xter has posted above. Certainly Origin has a clause like that, as it was highlighted when that whole Origin privacy kerfuffle kicked off, as certain evidence that EA could and would do anything and everything to all Origin users.

      Hell… Even Minecraft has something like that in their Terms of Use.

      “We reserve the right to change this agreement at any time with or without notice, with immediate and/or retroactive effect.”

      Compare that to the Valve one (and the Origin one, I think) and at least Valve notify you and changes won’t start until after 30 days of that notification. Mojang can change their terms any time they want, without notifying you, and make those changes retroactive… Legally, they could take the 1st born children of any Minecraft owners (not that they would, because that would just be silly).

      • BAshment says:

        You can’t reserve the right to break the law. The fact that they cant even prove if you yourself agreed to the terms shows how paper thin these agreements are. I’m pretty sure most legally binding contracts require a third party as a witness for that very reason.

        • Herkimer says:

          You can’t “reserve the right to break the law” in the sense that you can’t contract to murder, or steal, but you can certainly contract to alter the civil law’s basic assumptions.

          And, no, contracts are not required to be witnessed. Wills, yes. Contracts, no.

  12. Jason Moyer says:

    Class action lawsuits are silly, anyway, unless you have some sort of fetish for giving lawyers money. As an individual I’d get much more out of suing steam and winning than I would from being part of a class action lawsuit, even if they weren’t already offering to pay my legal fees.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      And if you lose, you lose:

      Your legal fees
      Your opponent’s legal fees
      Your entire income for the period of the lawsuit, since you’ll have to appear in court and won’t be able to work
      The inevitable counter-suit

      • bglamb says:

        Did you not read the post? Vale will pay your fees even if you lose.

        • Kaira- says:

          Only if you go through American Arbitation System. Which as an EU citizen seems very silly.

        • Koozer says:

          It also mentions that the losing side does not have to pay the winner’s fees, which is a major reason for this change.

  13. Cameron says:

    Also, if I am reading Blizzard’s World of Warcraft EULA correctly (Not a lawyer, so I have my doubts) then it seems to attempt to tell you that under most circumstances you aren’t allowed to sue them at all.


    “Any election to arbitrate by one party shall be final and binding on the other. YOU UNDERSTAND THAT ABSENT THIS PROVISION, YOU WOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO SUE IN COURT AND HAVE A JURY TRIAL. ”

    http://sea.blizzard.com/en-sg/company/legal/wow_eula.html

    • Milky1985 says:

      Thats not what that clause says, it says that IF you got to arbitration THEN you do not have the right to go to court over it.

      Basically to stop you going to arbitration, not liking what you get out of that and then sueing them as well.

      • bglamb says:

        “any election to arbitrate” seems to say otherwise. It seems to say that one side can choose to arbitrate, and the other must accept.

      • Cameron says:

        If you also read the earlier parts of that section it also says that you agree to arbitrate before taking them to court. So does that not mean that you can’t take them to court before arbitration and you can’t after?

        “A. Informal Negotiations. To expedite resolution and control the cost of any dispute, controversy or claim related to this License Agreement (“Dispute”), you and Blizzard agree to first attempt to negotiate any Dispute (except those Disputes expressly provided below) informally for at least 30 days before initiating any arbitration or court proceeding.”

        • Milky1985 says:

          Again thats not what that says

          It says you must negotiate before you initate any proceedings, basically you can’t just up and say “taking you to court” you must give them 30 days of customer service time before you do that.

          This negiation is seperate to the arbitration process. Yes its still stupid badits not as bad as you are making out.

          It even says right there in the thing you quoted “before initiating any arbitration or court proceeding.” :P

  14. senile peasant says:

    It’s interesting to know that Valve decided on Luxembourg as their regional office. That place is renowned for hosting tax dodging corporations…

    Is there anyway to find out how many employes they have in Luxembourg and how much money gets transferred (if any) through that office?

    • TheApologist says:

      I was going to raise this point too – another big story here is, is Valve trying to minimise/dodge/evade (or whatever nicety we’re attaching to it today) tax by establishing this office.

      I’d be really disappointed if so.

      • psyk says:

        AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

        Good on them, if they can get away with it why shouldn’t they? and why do you care?

        • Subatomic says:

          Because large companies dodging taxes is a huge drain on public funding of important things like education, infrastructure, healthcare…

        • Zanchito says:

          This attitude is we can’t have nice things.

        • trjp says:

          psyk doesn’t understand how societies function – he thinks “every man for himself” would work and looks forward to the day someone walks into his house and takes everything out of it for themselves…

      • trjp says:

        Big companies seek out ‘lenient’ tax regimes in terms of both the taxes due on their profits and the sales tax payable on their sales.

        Luxembourg is known for both – as no-one (who matters) lives there they don’t really need a lot of money to look after the place and so they’re happy for vast sums to be made – of which they get a pittance.

        If you look at someone like Amazon, they’ve done over £7bn of business in the UK and have paid not 1 cent of UK tax (and aggressively ducked sales tax whenever they could – e.g. through the Channel Islands get-out which companies like Play used to benefit from too)

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/04/amazon-british-operation-corporation-tax

        This is commonplace with multinational corporations and it will eventually undermine society in a way we cannot recover from (similarly to the way the UK gave huge handouts to supermarkets which have destroyed town centres, forced thousands of businesses into closure and left us with no competition and no way out again).

      • Zephro says:

        I’m not clear on why we think Valve should pay corporation tax here in the UK anyway.

        Ethically/legally speaking the idea of corporation tax is that companies based here make use of public infrastructure (roads, public transport for employees etc), public protection (police, fire brigade), reliant on a skilled workforce from public eduction and a healthy workforce from the NHS/other public health systems etc.
        So as they are using/reliant our public institutions it is right that they help pay for their maintenance.

        Valve don’t use any here do they? The internet infrastructure isn’t a public owned service, it’s owned by private providers and Valve don’t actually own any servers here as they will rent from a content delivery network like Akami who actually run the local data centres.

        As all they do in the UK is sell stuff, they should only pale VAT.

        Amazon are different as they have staff, infrastructure, delivery depots etc. All located in the UK. So they are using public institutions without every paying.

    • D3xter says:

      I think they established Valve S.a.r.l. on the 4th of July, so it’s not really possible to know how many are working there.
      https://www.rcsl.lu/mjrcs/jsp/DisplayConsultDetailCompanyActionNotSecured.action
      “Bezeichnung(en) oder Firmenname(n): Valve S.à r.l.
      Sitz der Gesellschaft: 15, rue Edward Steichen L – 2450 Luxembourg
      Eintragungsdatum: 04/07/2012
      Rechtsform: Société à responsabilité limitée”

      Also, funny coincidence?, the European Court of Justice, which ruled that Digital goods can be resold is located in Luxembourg: http://gamepolitics.com/2012/07/03/european-court-justice-ruling-digital-games-can-be-resold

      • Subatomic says:

        That’s not really a big surprise, lots of EU institutions are located in Luxembourg (alongside Strasbourg and Brussels).

  15. Milky1985 says:

    Yes it sucks, but its the same provision all of the other major players have already put into their contracts (which is why its odd to me that its such a big deal that steam have put it in theres but soppose they are the one that gets watched more due to there stature)

    It does say very clearly in the T and Cs however :

    “SECTION 12 CONTAINS A BINDING ARBITRATION AGREEMENT AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER. IT AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS. PLEASE READ IT. IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, SOME OR ALL OF SECTION 12 MIGHT NOT APPLY TO YOU.”

    And Also further down

    “If the agreement in this Section not to bring or participate in a class or representative action, private attorney general action or collective arbitration should be found illegal or unenforceable, you and Valve agree that it shall not be severable, that this entire Section shall be unenforceable and any claim or dispute would be resolved in court and not in collective arbitration. ”

    Addmitting that the provisions might not apply to you, knowing that its not going to apply in the EU.

    Also in section 12

    “This Section does not prevent you from bringing your dispute to the attention of any federal, state, or local government agencies that can, if the law allows, seek relief from us for you.”

    Also

    “Notwithstanding this Section, you have the right to litigate any dispute in small claims court, if all the requirements of the small claims court, including any limitations on jurisdiction and the amount at issue in the dispute, are satisfied. ”

    So you can still go to the courts if the law allows (lots of reddit was screaming wahha you can’t sue, thats not what the clause says however)

    Basically this whoel section is say “no class action suits”, which is the same as bascially every company in america currently (sadly, blame your supreme court for that fuck up) and none in EU because honestly , i’m not sure we even have class action stuff.

    To me the bigger deal is the EU office, wondering if its simply a tax dodge (due to that place being notorius for its low VAT rates) or something else, maybe to seperate out the busineess in case of the EU ruling that you can sell stuff? That way they can do things different for europe and US easier, dunno but thats the odd one in here.

    TL;DR Version

    You can still sue em, just not in a class action, same as most other major american companies. Bad that you have to agree, but again, same as all other companies. Need major legalsative change to let us not agree to new contracts but still use services. Also need supreme court to strike down that AT and T ruling.

    • MadMatty says:

      Exactly- Thx for the info everyone… no need for panic just yet, but lets see where this goes…..

      • jalf says:

        “No need to panic. Everyone else are screwing you over too”. Is that what you’re saying?

        Personally, I’d say it’s exactly the time to panic when *everyone* you deal with are screwing you over. If it was *just* Valve, it wouldn’t be so worrying.

    • Zephro says:

      Yeah it doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about.
      a) In the EU strong consumer law trumps it anyway.
      b) I don’t think Class Actions even exist in the UK, so I’ve not lost the right to anything that I’m aware of.
      c) Valve do seem to be putting some effort into at least paying for arbitration and still allow the small claims court (which in the UK they couldn’t take away my right to anyway).

      Pretty much business as usual. Maybe US Citizens have something to worry about…. but they should be upset their consumer law is rubbish in a more general sense and that lawyers make most the money from Class Actions.

      All very meh.

      As for the Luxemborg thing, also seems kinda meh. Do Valve even have that many staff over in the EU? Apart from Sales Tax I doubt they’ve ever paid a penny over here before anyway. They’re not employing staff in the UK, running any infrastructure here (their servers likely run on someone elses CDN like Akami etc.) so I’m not clear why we would even expect them to pay corporation tax here.

  16. tomme says:

    See, Valve is just as greedy and shady as EA. Can’t believe so many people thought diffrent. Such an outrage because of Origin… But Steam is not any better.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s a funny definition of greed you have, where a corporation will, in their own terms of service, offer to pay the legal fees of anyone that takes them to court.

      Greed is what the recording industry do – threatening an expensive legal battle to anyone that oppose them. I’m fairly sure the opposite of that is offering to pay people to sue you.

      • tomme says:

        Oh how nice, because one man is sure to make a diffrens when Steam has done something fishy, against one or several users.

        But I guess you don’t mind having no rights what so ever to your games.

      • Kaira- says:

        One one hand they demand your right to sue, and on the other hand they offer you a pittance of money. What a deal!

      • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

        Not court, arbitration. You know, that process where you go to a Third Party Paid By Valve (TM) that will decide if your claim is valid or not, and it is binding for both parties. There is a history of biased arbiters in most, if not all, countries.

  17. nERVEcenter says:

    Someone will sue, and it’ll get shot down in court somewhere along the line. One of these days, a company with a retroactive class-action waiver in their EULA will get taken to the Supreme Court and slapped across the fucking face.

  18. Mallobaude says:

    steam… you still remain disappointing…

  19. MommaB says:

    OK I bought my games, then they tell me all of their mumbo jumbo UELA. Ok I want to play the game so just click ahead. Then the next day I want to play the game again. They tell me they changed all of their rules I had to accept to play my game in the first place. I click no and they won’t let me play my games anymore. That I bought. With money. I earned. They stole it.

    • L3TUC3 says:

      This. I just updated steam and they present you with their new agreement. You get two options; agree and disagree.

      Clicking disagree will close the steam application, basically disallowing you to access your purchases.

      • Azdeus says:

        You’re actually surprised? You did’nt read their rules they set up. Sucks to be you.

        I’m so glad I decided (close to) a decade ago that I’d never touch steam..

  20. frightlever says:

    In the EU aren’t class action lawsuits exclusively initiated by public bodies? Or was that just something that was proposed to avoid frivolous lawsuits?

    The US system seems to favour lawyers over everybody else.

    • Subatomic says:

      You are correct, class action lawsuits like in the U.S. are not possible in the EU, at least as far as I know (they definetely don’t exist in Germany). This mostly applies to the fact that the result of a class action lawsuit applies to a whole group (i.e. all Steam customers that bought a particular game), wether or not they were involved in the lawsuit. Under european jurisdiction, you generally have to be a participant in the lawsuit to get any benefit from it.
      Under certain jurisdictions, some public bodies (like the consumer protection associations in Germany) have the right to sue on behalf of the customers they represent, but even those don’t result in individual claims for each and every affected customer.

  21. JoeGuy says:

    Nobody can sign away a legal right. Courts never appreciate contracts that decide what action a person can and can’t bring forward. If you have the legal ability to sue them (can’t really imagine a screw up big enough to justify over $10,000 myself) then you will still be able to. It may require you proving your case on the balance isn’t arbitrary and such terms are void first but you have to do that anyway. It does make trolling more of a scary prospect though.

    • Stijn says:

      This bugs me too. How can an EULA control what legal rights I have or not have? If the law says I can sue them (in whatever fashion, I’m not sure of the EU equivalent of a class action lawsuit), what power does an EULA hold that it can supposedly overrule that?

    • Herkimer says:

      “Nobody can sign away a legal right.”

      Yes, you can. Just one (of many, many, many) examples that I could bring — one of my current freelance contracts has a non-compete clause. It’s valid.

      • JoeGuy says:

        That doesn’t take away your right to a living, so it’s not a valid point. No right is completely removed in that example, just professionally limited.

  22. Unaco says:

    Just out of interest, what did the Steam EULA say about legal action against Valve prior to this? I seem to remember it saying something along the lines of “your sole method of action against Valve is to give up your account and do nothing. You agree to this, meaning you can’t sue, just shut up and sit in a corner” (though obviously in lawyer talk). It certainly said something about the user having a single course of action available to them if they wanted to sue… that course being not suing.

  23. F. Lynx Pardinus says:

    Check out the 2011 Supreme Court case “AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion”:
    From the SCOTUSblog summary: “With the Court split among traditional ideological lines, a ‘bare majority’ of the Court (or five Justices) decided that, under the Federal Arbitration Act, contracts requiring plaintiffs to waive their rights to form a class in an arbitration proceeding are enforceable, because the federal law ‘preempted’ (or trumped) California state law allowing such actions. “

    • Delusibeta says:

      Yeah, that case is why everyone who operates in the US will include a similar term in their terms & conditions. It’s passed the Supreme Court test, “no class action” clauses are legal, so it makes absolute sense for everybody who operates in the US (and anyone else who has their Ts & Cs governed by US law) to include such a clause for obvious reasons. Sadly, this is one where you have to send your hate mail to the US government rather than the individual companies.

      What you can send hate mail to Valve over is the new Luxumberg division which is almost certainly for low-tax purposes, and explicitly banning the use of VPNs to buy games and data smuggling in general.

    • Eddie Bax says:

      Yep, this is just standard operating procedure for U.S. companies these days, after Concepcion.

    • garik16 says:

      Heh, this was just what I was about to post. In no way is this good for consumers. But under AT&T v Concepcion, such arbitration clauses banning class actions ARE legal. There are many many lawyers/legal-theorists who think the end result is that class actions will largely go extinct except in few select fields.

  24. psyk says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA………HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    HAH….HAHAHAH…HAHA..HA

  25. CommanderZx2 says:

    Blah blah blah… lots of people whinging in comments about things that will never affect them.

    How many game companies do you know of where an actual class action suit was filed?

    The only I can think of is against Rockstar for the hotcoffee issue and that was only cause lawyers saw the ability to get easy money.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Just because it is very unlikely to affect you doesn’t mean that it wont ever affect anyone. While I know you don’t care about anyone except yourself, other people do and are entitled to complain about it. You are entitled to not read the comments if they bore you. You may also tell us how much we are boring you if you wish. We are entitled to point out that you are an entirely selfish human being whose opinion is meaningless.

    • Unaco says:

      EA were hit with a class action suit by people who had bought their Colonial Hand-Egg games, something about them having deals with the Hand-Egg Associations that gave them a monopoly on Hand-Egg simulation systems, and allowed them to price gouge customers.

      Zynga had a class action suit brought against them for Insider Trading accusations, and other shady business stuff. Regular employees were prevented from selling stocks/shares, while their bosses were not (this probably isn’t relevant, as it wasn’t a game specific law suit, was more to do with their general business practices).

      Maxis (and EA, again) were presented with 2 class actions along similar lines. Firstly, by people who had installed the (freely available, free) Spore Creature Creator Free Trial Edition (the ‘demo’ for Spore). It installed Securom without notice. The second one was similar, but for ‘The Sims 2: Bon Voyage’, again installing Securom without notice.

      Sony were hit with a class action over the PS3 OtherOS debacle.

      Sony and Activision were hit with a class action suit over the Call of Duty games… People claiming they worked in concert to sell CoD games which deliberately overheated PS3 consoles, rendering them buggered, thus forcing the owner to buy a new one.

      Square Enix had a class action suit brought against them by people who bought FFXI, for hidden payments or similar.

      Korean Internet Cafe owners, who bought bulk copies of Diablo III, brought a class action against Blizzard for shenanigans etc with accounts and whatever.

      So, not that rare.

      • meatshit says:

        Also, the possibility of a class-action lawsuit is enough to keep some corporations on their best behavior. If class-actions get contracted out of existence, expect more and more companies to see fucking you over to make a buck as a good business decision.

  26. Emeraude says:

    What troubles me is to see people seemingly “discovering” that Steam’s EULA is… problematic for lack of a better word. It has always been.

    Mostly interested in learning what the new Luxembourg shift entails really.

  27. RegisteredUser says:

    Quite frankly, I would like to have an interview with Valve, talking about that a lot of people these days use VPNs out of paranoia, security concerns etc, or simply travel abroad quite a bit, and thus change their local IP quite a bit.
    Given the new clauses, I am ultra paranoid about losing all my purchases just because I have privacy concerns while on the internet.
    I also would hope to get some kind of “it’s really more for hard abuse, we know about censorship smuggling via gifting and quietly allow that to happen” reveal somehow, somewhere, without them suddenly realizing that’s a thing and killing it.

    Quite frankly, I am severely worried this whole “all or nothing” approach that Valve seems to have towards their service. It is really bothering me.
    If I get myself an uncensored version of a game I am not supposed to be playing(although I could order a box from abroad just fine or play an import for years..though I think they even updated censorship shit laws for that, too in the last few years) and you don’t want me to have that, then fine, take that game out of my library and block me from playing it further.
    But don’t kill the access to my other paid for and purchased titles.

    Basically someone needs to reassure both sides they won’t get screwed over as long as for the most part we behave and use the services as-intended.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      This is also my huge problem with the changes. None of the others affect me, but – I’ll be honest, I use VPN’s to access games early when they unlock in the US several days earlier. Recently it’s been getting really difficult to do this, I suspect the game knows which store it was purchased from and when it can unlock these days.

      I really don’t think they can legally take action against you if you buy from a different store anyway, at least against someone doing that in Britain. There has been a test case in satellite TV, where it was ruled legal for a pub to purchase satellite tv from a (Greek??) provider despite the Murdoch empire throwing their weight behind the case. I think that the ruling means that people in Britain can legally purchase from any market as long as what they buy complies with British law AND (this is important) the copy you buy does not contain extras compared to the copy available in your market e.g. foreign language soundtracks or market exclusive content

  28. killuminati says:

    Well as many has already said, they can write wathever they want in the agreement but the local law will be always the ruler.
    I give you an example: in Italy if you go to a swimmingpool, jym or wathever you usually find signs that say “Do not leave your baggage unhattempet or inc ase of any theft the direction is not responsible”. Well usually those signs are but in very well exposed place that anyone can see and usualy do but SURPRISE, for our law the management is in that moment RESPONSIBLE for all the objects that are left in their structure and if any theft occurs, well they ARE ACCOUNTABLE for that.
    So at the end of the day, the companies many write what you want on the agreement but the law is always on top of any clause there stated.

  29. Berzee says:

    There are two pages of comments and nobody has mentioned “Gandhi And His Best Friend, A Baby Hedgehog Who Can Only Communicate With Hugs, Corp” yet.

    I think you’re all horrible, awful people.

    Regards,
    – Berzee

  30. simonh says:

    What I wonder is, as I’ve actually bought my Steam games, and they’re supposedly my property, and not just licensed or whatever, how can Valve possibly have the right to hold them hostage while imposing new license agreements on me? Rejecting the agreement should only prevent you from buying additional games.

    • Chris D says:

      I think the point is that they’re not supposedly your property, they are just licensed, according to the EULA at least.

  31. HothMonster says:

    The only people who profit in class actions are lawyers anyway. The class usually gets a pittance. We might not be able to sue them as a hoard if they turn evil but we can always just walk away. We are customers after all, keeping us happy is what makes them the powerhouse they are. The loss of the ability to end up winning 1.34$ as part of a class action doesn’t really bother me.

    • beema says:

      I think class actions are more about sending a message to the company that they shouldn’t fuck with consumer rights than actually making money. Second, do you really think anyone will just “walk away” from Steam? After all the money we’ve sunk in to it? I have over 100 games on there. That’s a serious investment. Why should I have to give up my legal rights to access something I have already paid for?

      • HothMonster says:

        By walk away I meant refuse to do further business with them. But if they canceled my account or I was done with them I would spend the weekend getting cracks for my games and uninstall steam.

        30 million people not using their service anymore (for future purchases and/or at all) is way scarier to them than paying each user a few dollars.

        If you had a substantial class of people that were seriously wronged by Valve I am sure word of mouth (or typing of words of mouth) that all the naysayers are finally right and Valve has turned evil will hurt them more than a class action lawsuit would.

  32. beema says:

    I am most disturbed that Sony saw fit to include an opt-out but Valve has not. I mean… SONY. Come on Valve, step up. Does anyone know the contact info for Valve’s legal dept? I would like to inquire if that is an option here.

    This is really unsettling. If you click “I Disagree” well then you can’t play your games. Companies shouldn’t force you to give up your legal rights to pursue a hobby, especially when we are already paying them gobs of money for said hobby.

    Btw this doesn’t just rule out class-actions. It says that any dispute will have to be taken up in arbitration.

  33. JoeGuy says:

    Guess I’ll have to enjoy my Steam experience as best I can, otherwise I may lose my account if I file any type of dispute. Imagine a 6 year catalog going poof because of a credit card scam or severe account hacking etc. :-/

  34. meatshit says:

    To make things worse, arbitration courts are basically unregulated. There is no mechanism in place to make sure they’re not corrupt, which is another way of saying that they most assuredly are. Some of the figures I’ve seen show them finding in favor of the corporation over 90% of the time.

  35. misterT0AST says:

    Put simply, in Europe this shit don’t fly.
    Article 33 (and following) of the consumer code, on abusive clauses.

  36. fish99 says:

    If you’re in the EU you can safely ignore this, you can’t sign away your legal rights.

    Also it’s about time someone sued Valve for not letting us sell games from our steam accounts, since everyone in the EU now has the rights to sell on their digital software (no Gabe we didn’t forget about it). Valve won’t implement it until someone sues them though.

  37. Lamellama says:

    Has anyone chosen ‘I disagree’? Does it lock you out?

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      It closes the “opt in/opt out window” and Steam along with it. The window appears every time you try to load Steam, and it doesn’t go away until you opt in.

      That’s my main problem with this ToS update. It doesn’t allow me to opt out and keep access to the games that are already on my account.

      • Vinraith says:

        Exactly. In essence, they hold your game library hostage until you agree to their terms.

  38. Dark Nexus says:

    Thank goodness that class-action bans and forced arbitration are not legally enforceable in Ontario (and a number of other Canadian provinces)…

  39. alundra says:

    Does anybody knows what the privacy agreement changes pertains?? From what I read on the forums they now are going to collect chat data.

    EDIT

    And collect browser cookies, did I just woke up to a world where Valve has turned into an EA??!?!?!?!?!

    • D3xter says:

      Those things were there before:
      Old: http://web.archive.org/web/20110717184334/http://www.valvesoftware.com/privacy.html
      New: http://store.steampowered.com/privacy_agreement/

      And they don’t seem that bad, the Cookie thing basically says that they can save a Browser Cookie so that you can stay logged in and they don’t have to ask you for your Account information again at every screen. It does mention “Web Beacons” though it doesn’t elaborate, I haven’t seen any “Steam” signs on any other pages, so I believe they refer to their use of Facebook or Twitter.

      And as far as I can tell the “chat” thing was only misunderstood, what it says is basically that people shouldn’t share personal information with other people freely and that they aren’t liable if what you tell someone else is used against you:
      Chat Forums, Etc.

      Valve’s products or services may provide chat, forums, bulletin boards, or instant messaging tools to users. Any information that is disclosed in chat, forums or bulletin boards should be considered public information, and users who message one another may not know each other personally. Valve has no obligation to keep private personally identifiable information that a user makes available to other users or the public using these functions. Users should exercise caution when deciding to disclose personal information in public forums. Users should also be aware that game play information disclosed during multiplayer game play (e.g. player name and current player statistics) is public information and may be displayed to other users.

  40. Ultra-Humanite says:

    If you need to ask a lawyer what it all means then you probably shouldn’t waste my time by trying to write an article about it.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      You can always go find a sandbox (a real one, not a sandbox game) to stick your head in if you’d prefer

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      I know, right? I mean, they are wasting your priceless time by making you read their articles! THE NERVE!

  41. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    I looked it up and a change like this would be illegal in Sweden, and probably a lot of (if not all) the EU countries. I’ve also not recieved the prompt to accept or reject the new privacy agreement so maybe they already know this.

  42. Enikuo says:

    Can you still take them to small claims court, like Matt Spaccarelli did after the AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion ruling?

  43. beema says:

    Hey guys, I created a petition thingy asking Valve to provide an opt-out for this new clause. Sony provided one, so I think we should hold Valve to the same standard:
    http://www.change.org/petitions/valve-corporation-provide-an-opt-out-for-section-12-of-the-new-steam-subscriber-agreement

    • garik16 says:

      Petition all you want, it’s not going away. Think about it this way, the way the Courts now have to look at it in America: Valve is offering you a product (Steam) with a take it or leave it offer. If you don’t like the offer (the clause), you can’t take the product. And that’s what this is…allowing people to opt out would defeat Valve’s purposes here.

      It’s a crappy way to look at it since products contracts are essentially adhesion contracts, but well.

      • beema says:

        Look at it this way: it’s extortion. Comply with these things we just stuck in there, or lose access to a bunch of stuff you already gave us money for.

        I’m just tired of all the apathy. If everyone uses a defeatist attitude and just shrugs when things like this happen, it’s only going to get worse. Corporations will continue to railroad people in worse and worse ways if nobody says anything. It starts with small changes, and eventually gets so big that you literally cannot do anything about it. Maybe a petition wont accomplish anything significant, but it’s certainly better than doing absolutely nothing.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Good on you. You’re not going to get 5,000 signatures, but I signed it anyway because it’s a proper gesture.

  44. Shooop says:

    Absolutely nothing good can come of this at all. It’s the consumer’s interest to be able to file class-action lawsuits – stripping them of that right is not in anyone’s interest but the corporation’s.

  45. schwal says:

    My understanding (after doing a decent amount of looking around) is this:

    First try to solve it with our support people. Like always.

    Second go to arbitration (except for IP stuff and theft or piracy)

    Feel free to tell your Attorney General or any government authority anything about your claim if you think they’ll help you. (They won’t.)

    If you go to arbitration you give up the right to a trial.

    Give us 30 days notice to try to settle with you before we go to arbitration.

    Standard arbitration rules apply.

    If you want less than $10,000 and the arbiter says you aren’t being frivolous, we’ll pay your legal fees if the arbiter says they’re reasonable.

    No class action lawsuits or arbitrations even if the arbitration rules would normally allow one.

    No private Attorney General actions. (In certain bills, like the clean water act, private citizens are given the right to bring legal action for the greater good e.g. against a polluting company. This is called a private Attorney General action. I (not a lawyer) doubt this is enforceable.

    No combining arbitrations without our consent. (never gonna happen)

    If any of the last three items is found to be unenforceable, forget this section of the contract exists so that we don’t have to void the entire thing. If that happens, see you in court.

    Suing us in small claims court is fine. (It’s cheap as hell)

    If you live somewhere that local laws make some of this section unenforceable (outside of the United States basically), and not in the EU (sue us in Luxembourg if you do), ignore this section.

    AT&T v. Concepcion made this kind of arbitration contract enforceable in the US, and frankly it’s one of the better ones.

    *clicks I Agree

    • Sheng-ji says:

      The way EU law is written if an individual wishes to take a company to court, the individual has the right to have the case heard in his local court and the company has no right to request a change of venue.

  46. MythArcana says:

    “Hello. My name is Hardcore PC Gaming. And I’m not on Steam.”

  47. Brun says:

    Hardly surprising – as many others have pointed out, now that such clauses are legal this will become normal for corporations operating in the US. I don’t think it’s so much about avoiding the financial damage a class action suit could cause – it’s more about avoiding the humiliation and negative press such suits usually carry.

  48. fish99 says:

    Turns out Valve aren’t the good guys after all, just another bunch of corporate d***s. The worst thing about all this, they’ve got everyone by the balls with their near total monopoly on pc gaming, so you can’t turn around and say ‘no, I choose to get my games elsewhere’ because so many publishers make their games steam only. Every game should have a standalone version.

  49. DrSlek says:

    “In some jurisdictions this provision would not be enforceable,” explains the legal eagle, “since generally speaking the law that applies in consumer related cases is the local law where the consumer is located.” Each country’s laws could completely contradict Valve’s attempts to prevent class action suits, and possibly even individual State laws within the US. “In the UK,” Chapman continues, “it may be considered to be an unfair contract term.”

    I noticed in the new EULA that for European users, the acceptance of the agreement is legally taking place in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and is subject to all the laws of that country. I don’t know how well this would hold up in any other European court. Probably not very well….

  50. Mayjori says:

    funny story, won’t hold up in court, there are things you cant sign or agree “away”.
    It’s an interesting tactic though.