August 1, 2012
Valve Software Stops Steam Users From Filing Class-action Suits
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In their statement about these changes, Valve says they´ve “considered these changes 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."
Valve clearly hopes to be able to settle any sort of dispute, no matter the nature, between the customer and the company, making sure multiple users won´t be able to band together against the gaming service.
"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,” writes Valve in their statement.
There is one odd aspect to the new Valve SSA, however. According to the document, any user who chooses to take advantage of Valve´s individual arbitration program can expect to have 100% of any legal fees paid for by Valve, even if the Steam maker loses the case. There is one string attached to this offer, however. In order to receive full reimbursement, the claim must be under $10,000 and an arbitrator must not deem the case frivolous or the costs unreasonable.
Valve will also send all arbitration through the American Arbitration Association, a non-profit organization with offices all over America. Any Steam user with an issue can also choose to send their complaints through a small claims court, but in doing so they also waive the opportunity to have Valve foot their legal bill.
Just last week, Electronic Arts offered to settle a class-action claim involving exclusivity deals in their Madden and NCAA Football franchises, forcing the gaming company to pay back their customers and placing a ban on signing further exclusivity deals with the NCAA and AFL. EA implemented the same sort of restrictions on their services last year.
Some Valve users are upset by these changes, worried that in the event something does go horribly wrong (like losing all the hard work you´ve put in acquiring the Golden Axe of Eldor?) they have to play on Valve´s terms in Valve´s court. Additionally, if the arbitration case settles in Valve´s favor–which it´s likely to do– there´s no option to appeal the case. These cases are also conducted behind closed doors, meaning Valve is able to keep a tidy lid on all cases, no matter how dirty they might become.