German consumer group sues Valve over refusal to allow resale of Steam games

Valve is being sued by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZVB) over its refusal to allow users to resell games purchased on Steam.

According to VZVB's project manager Carola Elbrecht, the organization says Steam's users should be allowed to sell their used games at their own discretion, much like how traditional board game owners would resell their games. The VZVB has taken issue that purchases are tied to users' Steam accounts, barring licenses from being transferable to a third-party, and that both digital and physical games using Steamworks are also locked to a single account after they are installed.

Elbrecht argues that Steam's terms mean buyers only partially own a game and make exchanging online games impossible, as Valve forbids users to sell or transfer Steam accounts and copies of Steam games burned to CD still require a user's account information and product keys.

"If I pay the full price for a game, then why am I not allowed to do with it what I want," Elbrecht said.

When reached for comment, Valve's vice president of marketing Doug Lombardi said the company is aware of the press release from the VZBV announcing the lawsuit, but has yet to see the actual complaint.

"We understand the complaint is somehow regarding the transferability of Steam accounts, despite the fact that this issue has already been ruled upon favorably to Valve in a prior case between Valve and the VZBV by the German supreme court," he said in a statement. "For now, we are continuing to extend the Steam services to gamers in Germany and around the world."

In 2010 the VZVB sued Valve for similar issues, taking the case to the German Federal Court of Justice. The court ruled that prohibiting user account transfers and resale did not violate German law.

In July 2012 the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the trade and resale of "used" software licenses was legal and software developers could not oppose these actions.

The VZVB sent Valve a cease-and-desist order in September of last year regarding the issue shortly after Valve made changes to its end user license agreement prohibiting users from filing class-action lawsuits against the company.

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