Following an investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the gaming subscription services of Microsoft and its rivals Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft announced that it will provide more transparent and upfront information to help its customers better understand their Xbox subscriptions.
In response to customer complaints about the auto-renewal feature of Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft revealed that it will make adjustments to its auto-renewal practices. For instance, the company said it will make it clearer to customers that the subscriptions will auto-renew unless they turn off auto-renewal. It will also let them know when exactly the subscription will auto-renew; how much it will cost them; and how they can get a refund after an accidental renewal.
As part of its agreement with the CMA, Microsoft will also update its refunds policy. The company said it will now contact existing customers on recurring 12-month contracts and give them the option to either end their contract or claim a pro-rata refund. Unfortunately, the pro-rata refund only applies to those who have signed up for a 12-month subscription, leaving nothing to help players who have signed up for less.
Microsoft will also reach out to inactive customers or those who haven’t used their memberships for a long period of time but are still paying for the service. Microsoft will remind them how to stop payments, and if they continue to be inactive after the reminder, the company will ultimately halt taking further payments from them, even without authorization. It’s unclear, however, how much time has to pass before a customer can be considered “inactive” and how long the inactivity has to continue before the subscription is finally canceled.
Lastly, Microsoft said it will give clearer notifications of any future price hikes for both its Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold subscription services and will make sure customers know how to turn off auto-renewal if they don’t want to pay the higher membership fee.
“Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships and subscriptions,” said Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, in a statement. “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.”
As mentioned above, the CMA’s investigation also concerned Sony and Nintendo, so it’s expected that the two companies will also be announcing changes to their subscription services soon, just like what Microsoft did.
Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold subscription services
The Xbox Game Pass grants members access to a rotating catalog of games from a range of publishers and other premium services for a single monthly subscription price. You can sign up for Xbox Game Pass here for $14.99 per month.
Signing up to Xbox Live is free, but getting an Xbox Live Gold subscription is required to enjoy features like online multiplayer in non-multiplayer games, game recording, and media sharing. You can sign up for Xbox Live Gold here for a starting price of $9.99 per month.