Steam Updated Subscriber Agreement

#1 Edited by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

I started Steam today and was greeted with a new Steam Subscriber Agreement to agree to. Like every one of these EULA things, I just clicked through it without reading and then proceeded to do a Google search for what changed. It turns out that the changes might be a big deal.

Firstly, Valve is opening up an office in Luxembourg to better handle the EU side of their business. That seems pretty cool, I guess.

Next up, there's the new "dispute resolution process" wherein if you take Valve to small claims court, they'll foot the bill for you, up to a certain amount. I'm obviously not a lawyer, please correct me if I've got this wrong. However, this seems positive for the customer at first glance.

Lastly, class-action lawsuits can no longer be brought against Valve. Wait, what? Following in the wake of AT&T, Sony, EA, and others, Valve has decided that they want out of class-action suits, too. Though the article does do on to explain,

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.

I guess this makes sense, but again, I'm pretty far away form having a decent understanding of the legal system.

Before everybody gets up in arms about how this new clause about class-action suits isn't enforceable in court, Forbes had a pretty swell article explaining that precedent has already been set that such verbiage in a contract is indeed enforceable.

I don't know how to feel about this one. On the one hand, Valve has always been pretty good to its customers and had more of a long-term view of the market. On the other hand, changes like this bring back the reality that Valve is indeed a for-profit entity and not inherently altruistic. Maybe 2012 really is the end of the world. Or maybe we're just overreacting. My money falls somewhere in the middle.

#2 Posted by Shivoa (623 posts) -

Yep, I expected a new item about this at some point (after the spate of them when EA, Sony and others decided to strip US class action rights from consumers) - this doesn't actually apply in Europe and they even seem to note it in the (their capitalisation) entry:

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.

The move of their European tax location to Luxembourg is a sign they are likely implementing a tax dodge to avoid paying corporate taxes at the normal European rate as Luxembourg is a tax haven within Europe for certain types of trade and have negotiated deals for very specific tax avoidance with large companies such as Amazon that provide preferential deals for those companies unavailable to the general population (which raises a good question about the 1%/too big to fail/divided economy concerns currently playing out in the West). Because Europe operates as a single economic block (I can move and work at any job in Europe without discrimination and there are streamlined processes for collection and distribution of local taxes in all aspects of a pan-European company's operations and interactions with customers) then companies move to low tax rate locations in Europe to avoid paying the average tax rate on their European section of their global operations. Recently Vodafone used dodgy internal loans from their Luxembourg operations to the highly profitable UK operation to avoid paying tax on £6bn (almost $10bn US spending power equivalent) and then the government did a deal once they caught this dodgy activity and let them off. This is why this move could be considered unpopular, even if it just looks like the movement of an office to a different European state.

#3 Posted by mandude (2669 posts) -

This only applies to me in one of my three addresses. We don't have class action in Europe, and it's not as though corporations have us by the bollocks or anything.

#4 Posted by Shivoa (623 posts) -

@mandude said:

This only applies to me in one of my three addresses. We don't have class action in Europe, and it's not as though corporations have us by the bollocks or anything.

It is on the cards for the future (and specific nations may have similar legislation already); but, yes, the US form does seem like a way of making lawyers richer when the sensible stance should be government finding against companies and using punitive fines to control their capitalist behaviour*. Any group action for the many not endorsed by the Government should probably put a cap on the profits (and cost accounting) of any law firm going after a settlement/judgement.

* For our American friends who seem to have odd ideas about the benefits of unchecked capitalism: we (generally) think it should probably not be in the economic interest of any company to kill citizens and so some kind of counter-balance to any profitable murders are useful. This argument extends to all sorts of areas and consumer protections where the dispute can lead to fines (which encourage companies to be self-policing) as well as criminal prosecution if anyone actually culpable in the company can be brought to trial.

#5 Posted by Xymox (2082 posts) -

"If you seek $10,000 or less, Valve agrees to reimburse your filing fee and your share of the arbitration costs,"

I don't speak legalese, but that sounds good, and anyone who has that dollar value of faulty products must be doing something wrong, like buying the entire steam catalogue on windows 3.11 and complaining about not being able to play them. Nah, I don't even know man.

"YOU AND VALVE AGREE NOT TO BRING OR PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE ACTION, PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL ACTION OR COLLECTIVE ARBITRATION, EVEN IF AAA’s PROCEDURES OR RULES WOULD OTHERWISE ALLOW ONE." (caps as in EULA)

I note the, "and Valve" part. I dunno. I'm not seeing anything too crazy.

"YOU UNDERSTAND THAT YOU AND VALVE ARE GIVING UP THE RIGHT TO SUE IN COURT AND TO HAVE A TRIAL BEFORE A JUDGE OR JURY."

"YOU AND VALVE AGREE TO RESOLVE ALL DISPUTES AND CLAIMS BETWEEN US IN INDIVIDUAL BINDING ARBITRATION"

I'm okay with that. I trust Valve more than the judiciary system anyway.

#6 Posted by coryrx8 (175 posts) -

@rebgav said:

These two changes seem to go hand-in-hand. Avoiding class action suits is mostly a good thing for both the company and the potential claimants as those sorts of proceedings have become quite seedy and scam-like and generally don't benefit the claimants financially in a meaningful way. Small Claims has, I think, a claim limit of $5000 (which I'll bet is significantly higher than the average payout in a class action) though I can't imagine what Valve could do to put you five grand out of pocket. Still, Valve footing the bill for you to sue them seems like the sort of generosity (or over-confidence) which blurs the line between customer service and complete insanity.

I will say that I'm not a big fan of lawyers getting rich when consumers have been wronged, but what really drives me nuts is that they get rich while the corporation still isn't adequately punished; they're making serious bank for doing a terrible job, because often these suits are settled at a fraction of the cost of the true harm that the corporation inflicted. For instance, the RIAA-membership implemented a price-fixing scheme that lasted for over a decade and brought in billions of dollars of extra profits. Then, when sued, both parties settled for $67.4 million. So not only were the claimants not made whole and the lawyers made off like bandits, but the offenders involved weren't really punished at all. What message does that really send? It's not that doing the wrong thing doesn't pay, instead it's that you should always do the wrong thing, because if you get away with it you make money, and if you get caught you still make money, but you may have to give a little of it back.

That said, I'll still take it over mandatory binding arbitration, which should be illegal. Consumerist came up with a statistic that arbitration goes in favor of the group who chose the arbitrator 98% of the time, regardless of who actually paid the bill for the arbitration. Strike the mandatory part, and I'm OK with it. Strike the binding part, and I'm OK with it. Being legally required to waiving your right to use the courts and having a biased arbitrator as your only chance for relief is just wrong.

#7 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

@Xymox said:

I trust Valve more than the judiciary system anyway.

That seems like something a crazy person might say, but based on the the way the US judiciary system works, I'm inclined to agree with you.

@Shivoa said:

Luxembourg is a tax haven within Europe

I looks like that economist they hired is doing more than checking the numbers in the hat economy.

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