Valve Joins EA, Sony, Others in Trying to Block Class Action Lawsuits

Posted by patrickklepek (3378 posts) -

Steam (and Valve) is joining Sony, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and other companies hoping to block any and all class action lawsuits. When you boot up Steam this morning, you’ll have to agree to a new set of terms, and that includes agreeing to bring lawsuits against Valve in a a one-on-one capacity, not together.

Your other option? Not play your games, I guess.

“We considered this change very carefully,” said the company as part of a larger statement on the change featured on its website. “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.”

“Some situations” of a class action lawsuit benefiting consumers isn’t enough, apparently, and Valve is removing the tool entirely. Unlike companies like Sony, Valve isn’t offering an opt-out clause. Sony allowed consumers to continue having access to class action lawsuits by submitting a letter of intent, though that option disappeared 30 days after agreeing to the new terms. You have no such option with Steam, and must simply click okay and move on.

Valve is, however, offering to front the legal costs of its preferred option, arbitration or small claims court. The company will reimburse costs “under a certain amount” no matter the outcome, even if it goes against Valve, but it requires the arbitrator to determine the claim “is not frivolous or the costs unreasonable.”

It’s not clear these changes will ultimately be enforceable, however. They’ve never been challenged, but by introducing the idea that consumers cannot use class action lawsuits, how many will consider it an option?

“Time will tell on that one,” said Washington attorney Thomas Buscaglia to me last September, back when Sony instituted the same changes for PlayStation Network. “The US Federal Trade Commission and various state consumer protection agencies could have a problem with it. Also, some courts might not allow it to be enforced due to existing state court precedent."

Again, time will tell on this, but I’m bothered by the response by most players to just shrug at this move, as they have in the past. You should carefully scrutinize the reasons your rights are being limited, even it’s by a company who has traditionally been exceptionally consumer-friendly in the past, Valve. There may never be a point in your life where a class action lawsuit benefits you, you may be tired of getting emails about being part of class action lawsuits you didn’t realize were happening, you may not understand why you received a quarter-sized check in the mail related to a class action lawsuit from a few years ago whose email notification went in your spam folder, but you shouldn’t be okay giving up your rights. One day, you may wish that right was at your disposal, and suddenly it won’t be.

Make sure to read all of Valve's statement.

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3378 posts) -

Steam (and Valve) is joining Sony, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and other companies hoping to block any and all class action lawsuits. When you boot up Steam this morning, you’ll have to agree to a new set of terms, and that includes agreeing to bring lawsuits against Valve in a a one-on-one capacity, not together.

Your other option? Not play your games, I guess.

“We considered this change very carefully,” said the company as part of a larger statement on the change featured on its website. “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.”

“Some situations” of a class action lawsuit benefiting consumers isn’t enough, apparently, and Valve is removing the tool entirely. Unlike companies like Sony, Valve isn’t offering an opt-out clause. Sony allowed consumers to continue having access to class action lawsuits by submitting a letter of intent, though that option disappeared 30 days after agreeing to the new terms. You have no such option with Steam, and must simply click okay and move on.

Valve is, however, offering to front the legal costs of its preferred option, arbitration or small claims court. The company will reimburse costs “under a certain amount” no matter the outcome, even if it goes against Valve, but it requires the arbitrator to determine the claim “is not frivolous or the costs unreasonable.”

It’s not clear these changes will ultimately be enforceable, however. They’ve never been challenged, but by introducing the idea that consumers cannot use class action lawsuits, how many will consider it an option?

“Time will tell on that one,” said Washington attorney Thomas Buscaglia to me last September, back when Sony instituted the same changes for PlayStation Network. “The US Federal Trade Commission and various state consumer protection agencies could have a problem with it. Also, some courts might not allow it to be enforced due to existing state court precedent."

Again, time will tell on this, but I’m bothered by the response by most players to just shrug at this move, as they have in the past. You should carefully scrutinize the reasons your rights are being limited, even it’s by a company who has traditionally been exceptionally consumer-friendly in the past, Valve. There may never be a point in your life where a class action lawsuit benefits you, you may be tired of getting emails about being part of class action lawsuits you didn’t realize were happening, you may not understand why you received a quarter-sized check in the mail related to a class action lawsuit from a few years ago whose email notification went in your spam folder, but you shouldn’t be okay giving up your rights. One day, you may wish that right was at your disposal, and suddenly it won’t be.

Make sure to read all of Valve's statement.

Staff
#2 Posted by Bollard (5198 posts) -

There it is!

#3 Posted by RE_Player1 (7541 posts) -

Meh.

#4 Posted by EastboundSpider (93 posts) -

tl;dr, too busy spenfing money on steam to care!

#5 Posted by iAmJohn (6107 posts) -

Nah Valve, you can go eat a dick.

#6 Posted by ONIKAGEI (39 posts) -

Not sure i want to live in a world where companies can say, "hey, you cant hold us accountable for stuff" and have it enforced. I would hope that the shaky legal ground would bring this to a halt if challenged in reality, but if it didn't it's all a bit "Dystopian future" for me.

#7 Posted by Divina_Rex (351 posts) -

That sucks ass.

#8 Edited by RenMcKormack (1071 posts) -

To play devil's advocate.

"Muhahahaha...get down with SATAN"

But to say something on Valve's behalf that makes their presentation on this seem more legit and less like spin.

there are instances where arbitrators are in a better position, knowledge-wise, to adjudicate rights in a particular area, than a judge. Arbitrators and some arbitration organizations like FINRA(which by the way you agreed to go before should you ever have an issue with your bank). Practice in only a single area, like finance for example, and then can become experts in their field. Whereas your regular judge in federal or state court hears a pretty wide-variety of cases the arbitrator can focus in and become an expert on one area of the law or in this case of potential issues with the medium.

Also, and I have not read through the Valve stuff in great detail but I believe that most arbitration awards etc. have to be approved and/or certified in court. Though the court gives deference to the findings of fact of the arbitrator, its still another layer of protection for the parties.

#9 Posted by ArchTeckGuru8 (215 posts) -

Just out of curiosity what happens if i do click "i disagree?"

Does steam lock up for me or something?

#10 Posted by Damolition (119 posts) -

https://twitter.com/notch

Dear Valve: As a game developer, I understand the temptation to "rent games" instead of "sell games", but please don't do this. It is evil.

Such a fascinating chap.

#11 Posted by TehPickle (441 posts) -

Woah for a moment at the end there, Patrick started sounding distinctly like Jim Sterling. It's a good point though, and well made.

#12 Posted by CrystaljDesign (147 posts) -

Oh noes, I signed away my right to get a check for $3.50 when they shut down Steam and I can't play my games anymore!

It sounds like there are still legal routes we can take, so I think I'm good with the revised TOS.

#13 Posted by Bell_End (1208 posts) -

so... do we hate valve now. are we going to boycott them again ???

#14 Posted by 1momosauky (207 posts) -

it is a lot weirder when you have no choice if you want to still play the games you purchased

#15 Posted by Gremmel (44 posts) -

Thing is you can't sign away basic legal rights. Now if class-action is one of those is up to an actual court to decide, not you as an individual clicking something on the internet.

#16 Posted by Itwastuesday (924 posts) -

since when has the eula meant anything in actual law

#17 Posted by kpaadet (409 posts) -

But Valve is so awesome you guys, unlike those big bad console companies.

#18 Posted by White_Silhouette (470 posts) -

Origin and Sony did this and shit hit the fan. Valve does it and very few people care. hmmm.

I'm glad that Canadian courts has already slapped down denying class action lawsuits when in EULA's.

#19 Posted by Dixavd (1289 posts) -

It is shit like this that will only get worse as Steam monopolises the PC market. It sickens me how little people care.

#20 Posted by sephirm87 (230 posts) -

As an aspiring lawyer in school who believes in consumer protection, class action lawsuits are real shitty, because they are (in the real world application) all about shitty lawyers manipulating people into getting involved with something, then the lawyer wins big (or doesn't, like Vegas) and then takes a HUGE chunk of the winnings because they "won big." Also, when you sign on to a class action lawsuit, you forfeit your ability to sue later for related situations. Just food for though.

Honestly, not sure how I feel about this, but if it really bugs the consumer enough, people will not buy their games, and they will drop this from their EULA faster than you can blink

#21 Posted by Sword5 (150 posts) -

Valve can do whatever they want because no one views them as big business. Hell, even the GB staff celebrates Valves growing monopoly.

#22 Posted by believer258 (11555 posts) -

I agreed to it and didn't even know what it was about.

Ooops. Oh well.

#23 Posted by AuthenticM (3695 posts) -

Still illegal in Québec, so no worries for me!

#24 Posted by Wandrecanada (399 posts) -

At least they have stated they will reimburse costs of small claims action against Valve regardless of the arbitration's outcome. I'm still not sure they should be allowed to deny users class action suit abilities AFTER they have locked paid content behind their own digital wall. After the landmark EU case making digital items 'owned' by the consumer this seems like holding assets hostage.

It also concerns me that this language is too vague and may allow a blanket coverage for Valve in cases that roam outside service quality. For instance; What happens if Valve servers are compromised and many customers personal data gets exposed? Are class actions denied there as well?

#25 Posted by Video_Game_King (35780 posts) -

Actually, it's less people being OK with giving up their rights and more people realizing that they have no hope of getting those rights back, given how the system works. Can't fight money, man.

#26 Posted by Shivoa (605 posts) -

@White_Silhouette said:

Origin and Sony did this and shit hit the fan. Valve does it and very few people care. hmmm.

I'm glad that Canadian courts has already slapped down denying class action lawsuits when in EULA's.

I think people do care (I'm none too happy about this shift, even if it doesn't directly change much for me, as I'm not in the US). I think people have seen through previous actions that public companies like EA and Sony have made short-sighted decisions driven by a need for quarterly profits that damage their long-term relationship with customers and Valve are less prone to this kind of destructive actions and so less likely to use this kid of thing for evil. That tempers the anger (but will make it explode, nuclear, if this kind of stuff is ever used in a way clearly designed to exploit the terms to reduce the freedom and fair compensation of users with genuine issues).

#27 Posted by Grilledcheez (3942 posts) -

Oh shit!

#28 Posted by jakkblades (397 posts) -

I read just the first three words "Valve joins EA" and my brain leaked out of my ass.

#29 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1223 posts) -

It's another step in an ultimately uncomfortable direction (for the user). Valve's PR spin is the expected, acceptable but inaccurate thing they're obviously going to tell us. But if you ever thought you had anything else than a potentially temporary option to play your games in Steam you're just naive I fear. In the long term there's no way to realistically enforce personal user rights versus massive corporate interests. Especially not if you buy into their delivery system.

In legal theory my local situation doesn't even allow for my forfeiting my rights by means of a mouse-click. Will it matter when the shit hits the fan? Most likely not. So far I can live with this situation. I never liked Steam and I probably never will but I ultimately went with the times and made my peace with it.

#30 Posted by Shaanyboi (1255 posts) -

.......so... do i just not use Steam then? What exactly is the recommendation of action here, Patrick? Other than complaining to Valve, there's not much else I can do. I can't access any of the dozen or so games that I purchased on Steam during the summer sale, and putting out this EULA so soon after all those purchases is, yeah, pretty gross. But at the end of the day, not agreeing to this only robs me out of over $100 that I spent during that sale.

#31 Posted by Nikral (288 posts) -

What he didn't add to the article was

Unlike other companies who've issued language to prevent class-actions, Valve has granted users a weird bit of compensation in the new SSA. Anyone who elects to use individual arbitration to resolve any Steam-related disputes can expect to have their cost of arbitration paid for entirely by Valve, no matter the final decision. However, for this offer to stand, the claim must be under $10,000, and the arbitrator must not "determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable
#32 Posted by White_Silhouette (470 posts) -

@Shivoa: You are most likely correct. Also I would not be surprised if the people who were complaining the most before were there just for the sake they could complain about EA and Sony.

Either way it sucks, people shouldn't be giving up rights to pursue legal action. Even if most class action suits are pointless.

#33 Posted by yoshisaur (2606 posts) -

I'm trying to wrap my head around what class action lawsuits were being brought up against Steam. I guess the reason I shrugged it off is because Steam is a completely optional service for my use and I could give it up should the circumstances deem it.

If anyone can tell me a reason that this type of agreement is wrong that goes farther than just "you can't play your games," I will seriously reconsider.

#34 Posted by WMWA (1160 posts) -

I really doubt that would hold up in court if proper cause was established. Still, it's a bummer to see Valve go this route

#35 Posted by Deathpooky (1367 posts) -

People aren't going to give a shit for the same reason they overlook Google's bad business practices or privacy violations - they're the good guys. And given that Valve is still privately owned, I have more confidence in them staying good than others. Overall I don't have too much of a problem with this whole idea when it comes to trivial things like entertainment products.

Valve is right - class action lawsuits are a mess that rarely benefit anyone besides the attorneys running the show. Once in a while they're striking back against an actual bad business practice and can do some good, but the market can do that just as well in most cases. When PSN went down what was better - a class action lawsuit to try to recover $10 for every person affected and millions for lawyers, or Sony acting independently to restore their good name in the market?

#36 Posted by Vampire_Chibi (162 posts) -

can they even do that? i mean not being able to play xbox online is one thing, but not being able to play my PAID!!!! games is another.

AT somepoint this will go to court, i'm telling yeh, it's gonna happen

#37 Posted by NinjaBerd (221 posts) -

I am all about these type of clauses, they seem to shut all the shitty lawyers up. Please note i said shitty lawyers, not good lawyers who fight for good honest clients who have indeed been wronged.

#38 Posted by AbeBroHamLincon (88 posts) -

its good that they told people up front they could have just snuck it in and made people fined out the hard way a long time down the road.

#39 Posted by White_Silhouette (470 posts) -

@ck1nd said:

I'm trying to wrap my head around what class action lawsuits were being brought up against Steam. I guess the reason I shrugged it off is because Steam is a completely optional service for my use and I could give it up should the circumstances deem it.

If anyone can tell me a reason that this type of agreement is wrong that goes farther than just "you can't play your games," I will seriously reconsider.

Do you have a credit card on your account? As well as any personal information tied to that account?

#40 Posted by MrMazz (905 posts) -

but I thought Valve wasn't evil? O wait they are a business OF COURSE THEY ARE.

#41 Posted by BlackLagoon (1368 posts) -

@sephirm87 said:

As an aspiring lawyer in school who believes in consumer protection, class action lawsuits are real shitty, because they are (in the real world application) all about shitty lawyers manipulating people into getting involved with something, then the lawyer wins big (or doesn't, like Vegas) and then takes a HUGE chunk of the winnings because they "won big." Also, when you sign on to a class action lawsuit, you forfeit your ability to sue later for related situations. Just food for though.

Class action lawsuits are the only real form of punishing corporations for abusing consumers you have in the US though. Regardless of the problems with them, giving them up leaves you with nothing.

: Are you sure about the not tested in court? I was under the impression the reason all these companies are adding this clause now is because recently AT&T won supreme court approval of them.

#42 Posted by Goldanas (544 posts) -

I usually read through the class action lawsuits that I get in the mail, and typically I end up not bothering with them. Typically the benefit has nothing to do with the pay-out one receives--which is always minuscule, except for the fat chunk the lawyer gets--but has more to do with the change the company then instigates.

While I despise the use of your patriotic language in the final paragraph, Patrick, as I am so tired of the tone of these articles and their use of this cheap tactic, you are correct that there is no benefit in the removal of an option that really had no negative effect. Sure these lawyers exploit the system to make fat bank, but the companies do institute change. Though sometimes this change is to remove options so their consumers don't exploit them to enact a class action lawsuit, the change is more often so that the companies don't exploit us.

While Valve is absolutely right that individual claims are almost always much better for both parties involved, they enact change less frequently.

I will not state a call to arms, because that is not my business. I will not infer a nationalistic duty to fight for your right (to paaaaaarrrrrrtay), because that is your choice. I'm just sharing an opinion, apathetic as it is.

#43 Posted by jaks (243 posts) -

Huge, stupid corporations that think they can take away people's rights with clauses in their 400 page EULA's are so adorable. I just want to pinch their little cheeks.

#44 Posted by apoloimagod (117 posts) -

Do what you have to do, but don't tell me it's for the benefit of the community! Class actions are one of the few ways consumers can afford to bring huge companies, with big legal teams, to the courts. Otherwise, it's really hard for a consumer to sue a big corporation. It also means that everybody, individually, has to do it separately, and what are the chances of that? Oh, by the way, you can't sue them either, you have to go through arbitration, which is a process that is designed to benefit the big guy...

#45 Posted by yoshisaur (2606 posts) -

@White_Silhouette said:

@ck1nd said:

I'm trying to wrap my head around what class action lawsuits were being brought up against Steam. I guess the reason I shrugged it off is because Steam is a completely optional service for my use and I could give it up should the circumstances deem it.

If anyone can tell me a reason that this type of agreement is wrong that goes farther than just "you can't play your games," I will seriously reconsider.

Do you have a credit card on your account? As well as any personal information tied to that account?

Ah, that makes perfect sense then. My mind didn't really come up with that type of scenario and I appreciate your enlightenment. My only discourse with it is the fact that Valve will offer an (up to) reimbursement of $10,000 regardless of the outcome. I suppose it would be silly to me to feel vulnerable with my personal information on various other establishments when I have fraud protection as well as other (paid) systems to prevent my personal information being used incorrectly.

#46 Posted by TiE23 (298 posts) -

@CrystaljDesign said:

Oh noes, I signed away my right to get a check for $3.50 when they shut down Steam and I can't play my games anymore!

It sounds like there are still legal routes we can take, so I think I'm good with the revised TOS.

Haven't they long said that they've had a dooms-day switch in the case they can't stay open anymore? Time will tell, I guess. Maybe it'll be a thing where we're like all 80 years old and we read on our space newspaper (not internet, space) that a cybernetic Gabe Newell took all of his knives and made a knife-filled pipe bomb and blew up the Steam server farm in a last act of defiance and we'll go "oh... I used to have a Steam account until Apple released the Siri sex robot and we all forgot about video games. Well 'eff him, where is Episode 3?"

#47 Posted by Sravingmad (5 posts) -

Not entirely true that these clauses have never been challenged. Take a look at AT&T v. Concepcion which went up to the Supreme Court last year, and they found that an arbitration clause which denied the right to class action treatment was enforceable. That was regarding cell phone contracts and not video game EULAs but I'd think the two aren't that different in that they are agreements that no one actually reads all the way through and that you basically have no choice but to agree to if you want the product or service.

#48 Posted by Trilogy (2636 posts) -

It's a very unsettling that you are forced to sign these EULA's or lose access to games you have already purchased. I guess its the downside to being married to download services like Steam and i-tunes. They can really grab you by the balls whenever they want to.

#49 Posted by JuggaloAcidman (272 posts) -

Onikagei is right! Companies need to be accountable for things they do! They are slowly tipping the law in their favor day by day. It doesn't seem like much now... But if this goes over well... It's only a matter of time before other companies try to limit your ability to take legal action on them. I'm shocked that Valve of all companies is doing this. Class action lawsuits keep companies in check. If you ever needed to sue Valve... It would be just you and your lawyer against an entire team of lawyers payed 4 times more. It's ok for them to group up to defend themselves but when you want to do the same and have a fighting chance... Suddenly it's not ok. No benefit to consumers? How about costing you a bunch of money which PUNISHES you for wrong doing... Who fucking cares if the lawyers benefit as long as the video game industry stays honest! I think they are under the impression that the average person joins a class action lawsuit to make money... I do it to keep companies honest... I'm just glad Valve understands that we need someone to hold our little hands and protect us from the big bad lawyers that they themselves wield like weapons whenever they are in trouble.... HYPOCRITS!

#50 Posted by Dezztroy (768 posts) -

I don't see how this is a problem. You can still sue them if you want, and they'll even pay for it. Just don't do it in a way that involves scummy lawyers making huge profits.

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