Valve Restricts 14-Day EU Refund Law

Purchases on Steam cannot be completed without agreeing to waive rights for reimbursement.

449 Comments
Valve has amassed more than 125 million active Steam users
Valve has amassed more than 125 million active Steam users

Valve has acknowledged in its end-user licence agreement that customers residing in European Union countries are legally entitled to a 14-day period where they can return purchased goods for refund.

However, the corporation asks its customers to waive that right at point of purchase. It means that, while Valve acknowledges the rights of its EU customers, the option for a refund disappears the moment a game is purchased.

On Monday, Valve updated its subscriber licence agreement to acknowledge that “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 for a duration of fourteen days."

This led to a Reddit thread, and some news reports, to incorrectly suggest that Valve now offers its EU customers the chance to return their games within 14 days.

However, the licence agreement goes on to say that the right to refund becomes invalid when Valve's “performance of its obligations has begun." This ambiguous legal term effectively means that, once Valve delivers content to a customer’s PC (in accordance with its obligation as a games vendor), all options for refund will have ceased.

To make its stance clearer, Valve also attaches a message to the purchase button on its EU store, which reads: “By clicking 'Purchase' you agree that Valve provides you immediate access to digital content as soon as you complete your purchase, without waiting the 14-day withdrawal period. Therefore, you expressly waive your right to withdraw from this purchase."

According to internal tests at GameSpot, there is no way to buy games without agreeing to these terms.

Such a process clashes with some of the key features of EU's refund law. According to the body's own rules for refunds, it says that EU citizens “can choose to withdraw from your order for any reason within this timeframe--even if you simply changed your mind."

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chiffmonkey

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Edited By chiffmonkey

Tried 4 times now to get a refund on Starforge as NOT AS DESCRIBED. Valve have each time responded with a few erroneous claims and then gone silent, clearly because they don't have a foot to stand on. They keep saying that I have 200 hours clocked, failing to acknowlege that was time TESTING the game in an alpha build long ago, when it was actually in a much more feature complete state than it is now. Removal of features I believe is also legal grounds for a proportional reimbursement. Regardless, I have only clocked 32 minutes since the game was "released" and submitted the first refund request 6 days after the "release."

The right to a product being as described cannot be waived, it is a legal obligation for a product to be as described if sold to EU countries. Steam's refund policy is therefore entirely illegal.

They now have some nonsensical rules about Early Access games being bought for their current state (essentially making them pledges which makes their ability to SELL these games as "early access" when they're really selling "unfinnished game" very very shady), but this should have no effect on sales made before they added this clause.

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chiffmonkey

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No company can waive the consumer right to a refund on a product that is Not As Described. Ever.


This is of no relation to the 'no quibble' 14 day refund thing. This is refunding because the product was a fucking lie. It's illegal to sell lies.

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pboontap

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just another reason to stick with GOG!!! what can I say, unsurprised steam hater is unsurprised.

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AlexFili

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There needs to be some kind of refund procedure. Why can the customer not refund within 15 minutes of purchase is that so unreasonable? What if a game simply fails to launch on their device?


Steam customer service is definitely lacking and these sorts of quick fix legal measures only serve to frustrate the customer.

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Zepthire

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<< LINK REMOVED >> It might have to be a little more than 15 minutes in order to account for the time it takes to download and install the game. Either that or 15 minutes from the time the game is first launched as long as it is within a week of purchase. Regardless, I agree that they need something. I purchased a LotR game that was so badly optimized that it overloaded my CPU usage and then crashed every 10-15 minutes and it took me over a month to convince Steam to give me a refund.

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goon303

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> You may have been the first and last person to receive a refund on Steam... cherish it. :)

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rabbitcancer

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yeah...cause SCREW laws and stuff.

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elheber

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Steam is in full compliance of the law in question. Here's a quote from the official EU website:

You also enjoy the << LINK REMOVED >> within 14 days from concluding the contract for online digital content. However, once you start downloading or streaming the content you may no longer withdraw from the purchase, provided that the trader has complied with his obligations. Specifically, the trader must first obtain your explicit agreement to the immediate download or streaming, and you must explicitly acknowledge that you lose your right to withdraw once the performance has started.

<< LINK REMOVED >>

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rabbitcancer

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> This is fine provided the content actually works. Steam's little waiver means that - even if the installation package fails to operate on your PC - you're still screwed. The passage you are highlighting was written specifically to address music and video content, not applications.

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elheber

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> It was written specifically for digital content. That e-commerce law is meant to allow people who buy online to explore their potential purchase the same way one would be allowed to examine a product at a store. This doesn't really apply to digital content as there's no open store displays for movies, and digital stores generally have better descriptors for what the content is anyway. The law requires the retailer to specify how the content operates relative to the hardware, which Steam does already by displaying which OS is reqired along with other system requirements and recommendations. These are things that would be displayed on the box in a physical store anyway, and opening the box to see if it actually works on your PC isn't protected by that law either.

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xcollector

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Burn Valve at the stake! Vive la revolution!

But seriously the problem with a 14 day return period is you can play the whole game for free. There should be a 24 hour return period and thats it, so you can test to see if it will work with your PC. And if you return a game for a refund there should be a waiting period before you can purchase the same game again to prevent abuse.

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AlexFili

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Most App stores do 15 minutes, surely that's enough to at least see if a game works on your device.

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AmazingPaper

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Essentially, Valve is not doing anything wrong here. However it is a poor choice to have customers 'waive' their rights. In fact, unlike in America (as far as I know) a company or any other entity does nit have the authority nor power to 'waive' rights. Even if it gives the consumer this option. The 'contract' instead is void. At least here in The Netherlands.

Furthermore, there is no such thing as European law. These are guidelines and every country is allowed to follow or adjust these guidelines. As long as the adjustments are equal or more favourable to the consumer. The 14 days 'cooling off period' however does not apply to digital goods, goods that have an expiry date, time sensitive goods (like newspapers), products eith license keys or products meant for personal hygene.

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goon303

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Actually, in America, you can waive your rights, if I'm not mistaken.

It's your choice to do so. Example... "You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to waive this right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law... blah blah... " when you're being arrested by the police. I'm Canadian, so I don't actually know it word for word, but you get the idea.


The really big question is... what is Valve so worried about? Why are they so afraid of giving refunds and so terrified of lawsuits.... because they know they are running their business in an unsavory fashion, and are trying to cover their own asses.... plain and simple. The people or companies who are the most defensive, usually have a reason for being so.


Like I said... Gabe Newell (co-founder of Valve) did not make 1.3 billion dollars by giving refunds...

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elheber

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>

You also enjoy the << LINK REMOVED >> within 14 days from concluding the contract for online digital content. However, once you start downloading or streaming the content you may no longer withdraw from the purchase, provided that the trader has complied with his obligations. Specifically, the trader must first obtain your explicit agreement to the immediate download or streaming, and you must explicitly acknowledge that you lose your right to withdraw once the performance has started.

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AmazingPaper

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I am aware of this, again consumer laws are guidelines they display a minimum of rights that the consumer has. Any country may adept in part or full such codes. As long as the countries' terms are equal or more favorable than the guidelines. Much like how in the Netherlands I am entitled to more than two years warranty, while Belgium has copied the guideline exactly how it is and warranty stops after two years, unless a commercial warranty is purchased to extend the warranty.

Therefore, technically there is no EU law. The European Union simply makes codes that contain the minimum. Exact terms may vary from country to country.

Some laws, however can be dictated by the EU Union and will apply to all countries.

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elheber

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<< LINK REMOVED >> All the more reason this article is BS. If this is a "guideline" then Steam is meeting or exceeding them.

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lonewolf_de

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<< LINK REMOVED >> There's a reason you have EU courts not simply country courts ;) EU laws are not guidelines and countries/companies can be penalised for not abiding by them. Microsoft IE competitiveness springs to mind.

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DarkLight748

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As well they should. The EU will collapse soon anyway, and not a moment too soon.

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rabbitcancer

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<< LINK REMOVED >> think the U.S. is going to be around much longer?

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MrDinghat

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I use Steam a lot, in fact it's probably the most used program on my computer. However, this monopoly that Valve has on the market is really beginning to show its ugly side. EA's Origin offers full, no questions asked refunds (on EA titles), will refund pre-purchases back into your bank account (Steam puts it into your wallet), AND has (in my experience) excellent customer support. EA, the supposed 'Video Game Satan' is more customer friendly than the revered Valve.


It's definitely making me think twice before I purchase anything expensive now. The other problem is that developers on Steam know that Valve doesn't offer refunds, so they can put out any old rubbish and get away with it (unless they straight up lie, like the War Z people did).

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goon303

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Well said. I love the point about developers knowing they don't even have to have any quality assurance. That is definitely starting to show a lot in more recent games. Some games come out and aren't even finished. The company stops making a game, and moves onto another one without even fixing the issues with the first game they made. Example, Endless Space.... the company left it bugged to hell, people couldn't even finish an actual scenario. It would start crashing in the later turns and as far as I know, they never fixed it. They went on to make a new game, called Endless Legends or something.


That's just one small example though...

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Stogin

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Geez, I thought you guys were trying to get above an F this year?

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Gelugon_baat

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<< LINK REMOVED >>

Then why not just extend the convenience for pre-orders to purchases after release of the game? :\

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riotinto876

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Regardless of the contract you sign or agree to, if its contents are illegal the contract is void and therefore you can renounce it. So I'm not sure this actually holds any power.

With that said, I believe that the refund of digital goods is a very difficult matter to deal with unless there's an absolutely flawless way to verify if the person has consumed the product or not already. You cannot refund a cake after having eaten it if you didn't like it, and you shouldn't be able to refund a digital product for the same reason.

If valve didn't do this, everyone in europe would be playing the games and refunding them 15 days later when they're done with them.

And yes, you can play the games in your steam library with steam shutdown, so game time tracking is not a good way to go about this.

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fauxtronic

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<< LINK REMOVED >> It would probably have been wiser for Valve to say these rights were signed away with the download. It's quite possible for them to toggle a flag when a buyer initiates a download for the first time.

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riotinto876

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Downloading a game doesn't mean you played it tho. They cannot prove that a person did or did not play the game after downloading it, or even if they did start up the game, did they even get past the initial screen at all?

Although I do think that making a game non refundable after downloading it would not be a terrible way to handle it, if a notice popped up stating so.

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lion2447

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Actually they can. From the moment you start the game, it's considered (to Valve) as being played. Even if you sit at the title screen, your time played counter continues to increase.

I agree with Valve to waive the 14 day return as many people would take advantage of that to complete the game and then return it for a full refund. However, something like having 1 hour to try the game and then allow a decision as to whether to keep the game or return it would be better. This way the customer can try the game and still have the option to return it if they didn't like it. I certainly would like this option as I have wasted money on terrible games with no way of getting my money back in the past. Having all digital games as final sale has made me less willing to try many games and losing out on trying games I might actually enjoy.

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riotinto876

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I agree, instead of wasting time and resourced on a demo, just implement a time limit within which you can refund the game and after that you cannot, staring at the title screen or not.

This and having it properly advertised would be the best option imo.

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fauxtronic

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Buying a game doesn't mean you played it either. My point is (which you seem to understand with that final sentence) that if they said "you sign away your refund rights by downloading this game" instead of "you sign away your refund rights by buying this game", the news would probably have gone down a lot better.


People would be more understanding in the event of it being downloaded because at least the buyer has taken possession of the product.

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B1ank

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<< LINK REMOVED >> You can go to gamespot, buy a game, finish it and then return it for full price within a week. That's like having your cake and eating it too

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goon303

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I think you mean Gamestop, not Gamespot. :) But good point... lots of people do stuff like that...


However, I think that since Valve actually tracks the amount of time people play each game, they can verify whether a person has played the game to completion or not, and hence, they could hypothetically make decisions about whether to give a refund or not based on that information.


But that's just hypothetical, because Valve does not give refunds under almost any circumstances. You just get a flat out reference to their policy, and not even an apology, no matter what your issue with the game was. Even if your system can't run it for some weird reason, you're just stuck with it. That's why they have an F rating on the BBB...


And now they are even trying to circumvent the laws in other countries which protect consumers... theyh are one low down dirty dispicable group of people. It sickens me to see such money grubbing behavior... Someone needs to grab Gabe Newell and drag him into the street and beat him with a stick.

I can't even imagine how much of a prick he is in real life but apparently he shoots his mouth off a lot, saying the whole gaming console market was a joke and stuff for example... but clearly all he cares about is money, the fat ugly pig...

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B1ank

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What is the big deal with refunding? At least 24 hours. Can't tell much of a game from a few pictures and shitty lets play video

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Zloth2

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Hence the concept of "reviews."

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lion2447

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Reviews help, but they cannot recreate the interactive experience. Also, reviews will always be biased toward the games the reviewer enjoys. There have been many games that received low scores that I have enjoyed and vice versa. Having a 'demo' time would definitely be something I would like to see with any digital content.

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B1ank

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Like they are helpful. Half of them are full of political agendas

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nurnberg

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Totally shameful. Steam think they are above the law.

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elheber

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<< LINK REMOVED >> The law specifically requires digital content providers (such as Steam, PSN, iTunes, Amazon) to inform customers that purchases of digital content becomes ineligible for refund once the download starts. Here's a quote from the official website:

You also enjoy the << LINK REMOVED >> within 14 days from concluding the contract for online digital content. However, once you start downloading or streaming the content you may no longer withdraw from the purchase, provided that the trader has complied with his obligations. Specifically, the trader must first obtain your explicit agreement to the immediate download or streaming, and you must explicitly acknowledge that you lose your right to withdraw once the performance has started.

<< LINK REMOVED >>

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Slibby8803

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<< LINK REMOVED >> then they should stop services in EU...

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rabbitcancer

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> off they go then - someone else will pop up quite quickly

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fauxtronic

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I'm not sure it makes great business sense to pull out of a market responsible for 41% of your sales.

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Unfallen_Satan

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It's also important to consider EU's refund law on movies and similar consumable media. It wouldn't make sense to allow return of a played game when an opened Blu-ray can't be returned. Steam already tracks usage of its games. Are there potential problems with returning and refunding purchased Steam games that haven't been used?

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DrunkenPunk800

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BOO!!! People have the right to refunds, Valve. Even EA gives refunds on Origin.


When EA are doing something better than you, you KNOW something is wrong.

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xhawk27

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Software is different. You can play an entire game in 14 days.


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