There’s a rather disturbing trend making its way through the tech industry at the moment. Companies are updating their terms of service to make it so that consumers can’t bring class-action lawsuits against the company. Consumers are instead forced to bring any complaints to an arbitrator which keeps the case out of the public eye and significantly reduces any potential awards.
The latest company to join this trend is Valve, the celebrated pro-consumer company behind great games like Portal 2, Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2. They also run Steam, the leader in digital distribution for PC games. Why is a company that’s so well known for being consumer friendly doing something that’s decidedly anti-consumer?
Their reasoning is that it’s actually good for the consumer. Here’s their thoughts on the matter:
Most significant to the new dispute resolution terms is that customers may now only bring individual claims, not class action claims. We considered this change very carefully. 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. Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities.
That would make perfect sense in a world where the only kind of class-action suits are the frivolous ones that they mention. It’s unfortunate that Valve seems to think only of themselves in regards to class-action suits, despite their claims. If Valve were to royally screw up one of these days, a class-action suit would be one of the few ways to readily come to an agreement. Making every consumer go through small claims court or arbitration is only great for Valve because it discourages the consumer from making a claim.
It’s unfortunate to see Valve go down this path, but we’ll just have to grin and bear it for now. You’ll be asked to agree to the new terms next time you sign into Steam. If you still want access to all of your Steam games, you’ll have to agree. Considering that I own over 300 games on the platform, I think my hand is already forced.