French site Numemura is reporting that the High Court of Paris First Instance ruled in the favor of consumer advocacy group UFC-Que Choisir earlier this week in their case against Valve‘s PC gaming service Steam. In 2015, UFC-Que Choisir sued Valve on behalf of the public for what they believed to be a breach of consumer law, citing issues with Steam’s Subscriber Agreement. Chief among UFC-Que Choisir’s complaints is that Steam doesn’t allow its users to resell games they’ve purchased, and the French court has agreed that transferring the ownership of a digital license should be legal.
Naturally, Valve is planning to appeal the ruling, but if their appeal fails the High Court of Paris’s decision this week could have a ripple effect throughout the European Union and potentially other markets as well. The High Court does not agree with Valve that Steam is a subscription service, which is a major factor in why the Court believes Steam users should have the right to resell their used games, even though they are digital items, if they want to.
The French court also sided with UFC-Que Choisir on other aspects of their suit against Valve. When a Steam user leaves the platform, they are forced to forfeit the balance of their Steam wallet.. The ruling this week states that Valve is obligated to reimburse users who leave if they request it. Valve will also now be held responsible for games, including ones in beta, that a user claims “cause harm,” and Valve also has a weaker claim to the rights on content created by modders on the platform. Valve will also have to clearly and transparently state the conditions that can cause a user to be banned from Steam for bad behavior.
Should Valve’s appeal fail, they will be subject to a fine of up to 3,000 Euros a day for as long as six months, and the High Court of Paris First Instance has given Valve one month to provide proof of compliance. In a statement to Kotaku, a Valve representative said: “We disagree with the decision of the Paris Court of First Instance and will appeal it,” adding that the “decision will have no effect on Steam while the case is on appeal.” Valve won their appeal against a similar advocacy group called Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband in Germany, who also sued Valve over the inability to resell digital content. In that case, the Regional Court of Berlin ruled in Valve’s favor.
Time will tell what this week’s ruling in France will ultimately mean for Valve and the Steam platform. Kotaku points out that a 2014 court ruling in Australia resulted in Steam’s current refund policy, so it’s comfortably within the realm of possibility for this week’s findings to have a lasting effect.