Valve Changes Steam TOS, Bans Class-Action Suits -
Valve has taken the controversial move of changing the Steam terms of service to ban class-action lawsuits and require arbitration, similarly to what Sony did last year. They explained their move on Steam's news section.
Legal claims customers may have against Steam must now be brought through arbitration, and can never be brought as class actions. Valve is also going to put up the cost of arbitration for claims under $10,000. All in all, the arbitration system sounds like a win for Steam customers. The class action ban, however, is another story.
"It's clear to us that, in some situations, class actions have real benefits to customers," says Valve's news post. It goes on to read, "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."
Blaming the lawyers is a pretty classic move—who likes lawyers, after all—but Valve is hiding the ball. The expense and delay are only imposed on Valve. That's the whole point of class-action lawsuits. Nobody is going to bother suing for a $5 claim, so you let everyone sue at once. The multi-million dollar bite keeps companies from trying to illegally nickel and dime their customers.
For sure, though, the arbitration clause does sound like a plus for Steam-powered gamers. Arbitration can be expensive, after all. Just don't be fooled about who's benefitting from the class-action clause. It's not you, unless Gabe Newell's a Pixel Perfect fan. [Ed. note: Don't be silly, of course he is.]
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