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Friday, March 21, 2008

Steam's "No Refund" Policy Oddly Well-Equipped

For a framework which likes to pretend that it doesn't need nor support the concept of refunds, despite being a framework which takes your money with essentially no promise of return for goods or services ... Steam seems well equipped for dealing with that alternative as I signed on for a bit of Team Fortress and got a notice telling me that The Club should be due for a refund.

Remember, peeps, when you buy from Steam (Valve) ... you get charged the moment you send your credit info ... regardless of what Steam decides to actually send you ... so if you spent $50 on an error message or completely non-functional PITA ... Valve's policy would still be to go sod off ... as they already have your money.


Greg Tannahill said...

That reminds me: there's a strong case to be made that for an software where you cannot obtain a refund after purchase, the EULA has no binding power. The contractual power of EULAs and TOSs under law is most akin to ticket cases, where patrons are bound by terms written on the back of a ticket they have purchased. Normally such terms would not be binding as the buyer did not agree to them prior to entering into the contract for purchase; they cannot be binding subsequent to purchase as there is no consideration ie the purported right conferred to play the game / enter the carnival has already been transferred at purchase (it's hard to say that paying $80 for a game is not intended to transfer the right to play it).

The reason by which ticket conditions / EULAs can be binding is the right of the purchaser to return the ticket / game for a full refund if they do not agree to the terms of the EULA. Therefore in a no refunds environment it's hard to say that EULAs consistute a binding contract.

Anyway, just throwing that out there for your interest.

Josh said...

No refund for downloadable software isn't completely odd - what makes it odd is Steam's ability to masquerade the entire affair. This is software which locks software away in a vault and provides no inspection at all for it.

With iTunes or Amazon you can at least investigate the contents of your hard drive, try burning music to disc or otherwise prove that this was not the product you paid for. Steam provides the consumer with no such ability, in fact it would be a further violation of Steam's policies to attempt such activity. And unlike other services, Valve actually has the ability to investigate the situation for you.

Valve knew I had downloaded something and they knew I never had played it. They know I can't transfer it to another disc and so if I claim they delivered faulty software - they can easily flip it off and refund my money (as they did).

So in other words - unlike other downloadable software, Steam provides the user with less rights, Valve with more power ... and Valve still enforces a clearly consumer unfriendly line.

In that case, getting it from Best Buy, which will at least give you store credit, simply makes an order of magnitude more fiscal sense.