Valve has applied the divisive Federal Arbitration Act to prevent Steam users from filing class-action lawsuits against the company.
Should Valve be unable to deal with any complaint through normal customer service channels, a “new required process” will see the matter resolved through arbitration or a small claims court.
“Most significant to the new dispute resolution terms is that customers may now only bring individual claims, not class action claims,” a statement released by the company read.
“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.”
Valve has agreed to refund the cost of the user’s arbitration – for claims below $10,000, and on the understanding that the arbitrator doesn’t deem the claim “frivolous” or “unreasonable” – regardless of the final verdict.
The prohibition of class-action suits in favour of private legal systems is not unusual with businesses of Valve’s size. However, it would theoretically prevent a large number of people from taking legal action against the company as one entity if, for example, it denied access to games they had paid for, or if the service ever closed entirely.
EA recently settled a class-action suit over exclusivity rights in the Madden and NCAA Football franchises.