In an announcement made this morning over at the official Steam web site Valve Software revealed a change to its Steam Subscriber Agreement that makes it so that subscribers can no longer file class action lawsuits against the company (Federal Arbitration Act). Under the terms of the new agreement, Steam users agree not to form a class action lawsuit against the company, using a "dispute resolution" process to deal with complaints on an individual basis (arbitration).
Valve also said in its statement that it would refund the cost of arbitration – regardless of the outcome – for any claims below $10,000, as long as the arbitrator didn't rule that the claim was frivolous or unreasonable. Of course, because Valve will be hiring the arbitrator in question, one can expect that the person dealing with disputes will not be completely impartial either…
While this change is a little disheartening because it takes legal options off the table for consumers who may have real and legitimate complaints, this is also the standard practice of most companies in the U.S. that deal with consumers. Valve's full statement can be read below:
This time around there are a number of changes reflected in both documents including the opening of a new Valve office in Luxembourg to better serve our EU customers and partners. If you live in the EU, your SSA will be with our Luxembourg subsidiary Valve S.a.r.l. and the SSA has been amended to reflect additional terms specific to our EU customers. We've added other terms related to the Steam Wallet and Steam trading to accommodate new features and capabilities of Steam.
We’re also introducing a new dispute resolution process that will benefit you and Valve. Recently, a number of companies have created similar provisions which have generated lots of discussion from customers and communities, and we’ve been following these discussions closely. On Steam, whenever a customer is unhappy with any transaction, our first goal is to resolve things as quickly as possible through the normal customer support process. However in those instances in which we can't resolve a dispute, we've outlined a new required process whereby we agree to use arbitration or small claims court to resolve the dispute. In the arbitration process, Valve will reimburse your costs of the arbitration for claims under a certain amount. Reimbursement by Valve is provided regardless of the arbitrator’s decision, provided that the arbitrator does not determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable.
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. Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities. 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.
Thanks for reading through our thoughts on these updates and for your continued use of Steam.