German consumer advocacy group, VZBV, has issued an ultimatum to Valve: Change your consumer policies, or face the consequences.
While many a gamer have mounted protests and criticisms against companies like Sony or EA for their restrictive End User License agreements, not too many voices complained at Valve's EULA change back in August. This particular EULA change prevents users from filing a class-action lawsuit against Valve and instead should go through arbitration, and even then only in single claims, not class-action claims. From Valve's announcement:
“On Steam, whenever a customer is unhappy with any transaction, our first goal is to resolve things as quickly as possible through the normal customer support process. However in those instances in which we can’t resolve a dispute, we’ve outlined a new required process whereby we agree to use arbitration or small claims court to resolve the dispute. In the arbitration process, Valve will reimburse your costs of the arbitration for claims under [$10,000]. Reimbursement by Valve is provided regardless of the arbitrator’s decision, provided that the arbitrator does not determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable.”
“Most significant to the new dispute resolution terms is that customers may now only bring individual claims, not class action claims. We considered this change 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. 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.”
If you don't actually agree to the EULA changes, that's fine. You just hit cancel. By hitting cancel, however, you are blocked from accessing Steam, and therefore all of your Steam games. This also effectively stops any large-scale legal dealings against Valve since one user's claim may be small, but many users together may stand a chance.
According to VZBV, "game developers cannot simply impose their conditions on their users." Also,
VZBV has stated that Valve has until the 26th to respond to the C&D. From there who knows what will happen. It's most likely this C&D is a publicity feature by VZBV to point out some seriously troubling trends all across the gaming medium. In many ways it's been growing more consumer un-friendly as time goes by. EULAs have been increasingly restrictive over the past year as companies try to shield themselves from legal worries.
Those worries aren't entirely unfounded, either. Blizzard faces legal action for its always-on DRM for Diablo III in Korean, German, and French courts. An EULA like Valve's would prevent similar class-action suits.
Will this help Valve change its mind, or will they just shrug it off? September 26 is just a week away, so we'll see soon!