There are quite a few incorrect reports out there about Steam’s latest Subscriber Agreement update, suggesting the addition of a 14 day EU refund policy is new – it isn’t.
Valve and Steam have a long, begrudging history with the concept of digital refunds, but even they were forced to comply with the 2014 EU Consumer Rights Directive. I wrote about this piece of legislation from a UK perspective when it was introduced in June. I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out this consumer law was for all 28 EU member states.
GamerLaw’s Jas Purewal confirms that reports of Steam’s EU refund policy being new are “simply wrong.”
The claims that only now has Valve introduced a policy regarding Steam EU refunds is simply wrong. It has existed since summer 2014.
— Jas Purewal (@gamerlaw) March 18, 2015
The wording, however, has slightly changed; which is probably what caused the confusion in the first place. You can see the older and newer Subscriber Agreements side-by-side with changes, here. There is now a direct reference to the refund being a fourteen day affair, but the policy remains the same.
I asked Purewal about the reason for the wording changes. He told me the language has been tinkered with to “make it slightly clearer to a regulator.” Here’s the relevant twitter conversation strand.
The wording on Valve and Steam’s obligations regarding that refund have changed a bit as well. That right to a fourteen day refund window is waived when “VALVE’S PERFORMANCE OF ITS OBLIGATIONS HAS BEGUN WITH YOUR PRIOR EXPRESS CONSENT.”
As far as I can tell, most aspects, including this line “YOU WILL BE INFORMED DURING THE CHECKOUT PROCESS WHEN OUR PERFORMANCE STARTS AND ASKED TO PROVIDE YOUR PRIOR EXPRESS CONSENT,” point to Valve’s “performance of its obligations” beginning when you start downloading the game.
If I’m reading all of this correctly (and it’s dense legal jargon, so there’s a chance I’m not): as of Summer 2014, EU Steam users should have been able to get a no-questions refund on any purchased game that they did not yet begin downloading. As long as that request was made within 14 days.
None of that is new, it just has slightly updated wording.
Something which is new, is Steam and Valve covering themselves regarding paid endorsements through Steam Broadcasting and the Steam Curation system. This passage has been added to the new Subscriber Agreement: “If you use Steam services (e.g. the Steam Curators’ Lists or the Steam Broadcasting service) to promote or endorse a product, service or event in return for any kind of consideration from a third party (including non-monetary rewards such as free games), you must clearly indicate the source of such consideration to your audience.”