Good news on the front for those of us that think we ought to own what we've actually bought. You may recall that way back in 2015, when the world made much more sense, French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir sued Valve over several different ways the company operates the Steam platform. Chief among those concerns were resale rights, with Steam arguing all along that its subscription based service does not afford customers the right to resell the games they bought, as they would physical copies of games. As we said all along, why the delivery method for a video game should alter the consumer rights for that product were anyone's guess, but that was the argument Valve made in response to the suit.
Fortunately, the French court didn't buy it. The High Court of Paris has instead ruled for UFC-Que Choisir, declaring that Steam must allow users to resell the games they buy on the platform and post messaging declaring this change to Steam directly.
According to the French gaming site Numerama, as well as UFC-Que Choisir itself, the High Court of Paris ruled in UFC-Que Choisir’s favor earlier this week. If Valve’s appeal fails, this ruling stands to have ramifications not just in France, but across the European Union. Specifically, the court didn’t find Valve’s defense that Steam is a subscription service compelling. As a result, the court declared that users should be allowed to resell Steam games.
The court ruled in favor of UFC-Que Choisir on other counts, too. In its original suit, the organization had also taken aim at the fact that, if a user leaves Steam, Valve would keep whatever currency was left in their Steam Wallet. The recent ruling states that the company will instead have to reimburse users who request it. Valve must now also accept responsibility when users say an item on Steam caused them harm, even if it’s in beta. Valve’s rights to users’ mods and community content will also be diminished, and the company will have to clarify the conditions under which users can lose access to Steam for poor behavior.
If Valve fails to comply, it can be fined up to 3,000 euros per day for six months. As Kotaku's post notes, this is much bigger than just a French problem for Steam. Because of the way the EU courts are supposed to apply rulings uniformly, there is the potential for this standard to be applied across the entire EU. That would represent a massive change to the consumer rights of Steam users throughout nearly all of Europe and you can bet that American consumer groups would immediately jump on the bandwagon this side of the pond as well.
This is all, however, pending an appeal by Valve.
Again, though, Valve, plans to appeal the ruling. “We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it,” a Valve representative told Kotaku in an email. “The decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.”
So, no changes for now, it appears. Still, there is the very real potential that at least in France, if not in the entire EU, gamers might actually own what they buy.
Filed Under: copyright, digital goods, france, ownership, resale rights, steam, video gamesCompanies: valve