A UK regulator raised concerns over Microsoft’s Xbox subscriptions. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) raised a number of concerns over the subscription practices used by Microsoft, and asked the company to make some changes to the auto-renewing subscription system.
The CMA’s requested changes relate to Microsoft’s practices in relation to the auto-renewal subscription system. The Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold memberships allow users to gain access to a large library of games, which can then be played online on either an Xbox gaming console, or on PCs. CMA says that memberships renew automatically, and all subscriptions and memberships rollover. The problem is that a lot of people forget they sign up for the trial and other offers, and they often get charged as they tend to forget about it.
The CMA wants to change this, and it identified and raised a number of concerns over a lot of practices used by Microsoft related to the automatic renewal contracts. Microsoft agreed to address the stated issues, and come up with a list of improvements:
- Better upfront information: Microsoft will provide more transparent, upfront information to help customers understand their Xbox membership – making clear, for example, that the subscription will auto-renew unless the customer turns off auto-renewal; when the subscription will auto-renew; how much it will cost; and how the customer can receive a refund after an accidental renewal
- Refunds: Microsoft will contact existing customers on recurring 12-month contracts and give them the option to end their contract and claim a pro-rata refund
- Inactive memberships: Microsoft will also contact existing customers who haven’t used their memberships for a long time but are still paying. These customers will be reminded how to stop payments, and if they continue not to use their memberships, Microsoft will ultimately stop taking further payments
- Better information about price increases: Microsoft will give clearer notifications of any future price rises, and will ensure people know how to turn off auto-renewal if they don’t want to pay the higher price
It’s unclear if this will apply to other companies in the future, and whether the CMA will investigate and force other companies to do the same. The CMA is currently only advising other companies to “take note”.
Micheal Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA, said the following:
“Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships and subscriptions. We are therefore pleased that Microsoft has given the CMA these formal undertakings to improve the fairness of their practices and protect consumers, and will be offering refunds to certain customers. [...] Other companies offering memberships and subscriptions that auto-renew should take note, and review their practices to ensure they comply with consumer protection law.”
The good news is that the above-mentioned improvements won’t be limited to the UK, and Microsoft confirmed that “Changes to inactive subscriptions will initially roll out in the UK and will be available globally soon” , via TheVerge.
Microsoft recently announced it plans to acquire Activision Blizzard for a deal valued at $68.7 billion. It remains to be seen if the deal will go through, which could make Microsoft one of the biggest and leading game publishers in the world.
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