Australia’s federal court has passed down the maximum penalty allowed to Valve over its Steam refund policy. The fine, AUD$3 million ($2.2 million / £1.8 million) was set when the court ruled that Valve had breached consumer law when it refused refunds between 2011 and 2014.
The fine represents the maximum allowed and was requested by Australia’s competition regulator. The figure is over twelve times what Valve itself suggested it should be liable for at AUD$250,000. That amount was rejected by Justice Edelman who said that the figure was “not even a real cost of doing business. It would barely be noticed.”
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Justice James Edelman set the maximum fine because Valve had shown a willful disregard for Australian law. This was clear when Valve’s general counsel, Karl Quackenbush, told the court the company did not obtain legal advice when it set up in Australia.
Justice Edelman wrote in his judgement
Valve is a United States company with 2.2 million Australian accounts which received 21,124 tickets in the relevant period containing the word “refund” from consumers with Australian IP addresses. Yet it had a culture by which it formed a view without Australian legal advice that it was not subject to Australian law, and it was content to proceed to trade with Australian consumers without that advice and with the view that even if advice had been obtained that Valve was required to comply with Australian law the advice might have been ignored.
As well as paying the fine, Valve must add a notice on the Australian version of the Steam website in size 14 font explaining Australian consumer rights.