Users with inactive Xbox subscriptions will be contacted and many other practices from Microsoft’s services will be more transparent as the United Kingdom government cracks down on auto-renewing issues.
Everyone has one or two subscriptions that they say they will cancel before the next billing cycle, like an unused gym membership (but you tell yourself you use the gym at least once a week). In Microsoft’s case, Xbox subscriptions to services like Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold were continually charged for years without users being informed.
Another big issue was that the company was not informing their customers clearly about how the auto-renewal function works. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) “has secured undertakings with Microsoft” to ensure consumers are not taken advantage from these subscription services. This investigation began in 2019 but has recently been updated with the following updates.
Here are the four issues the CMA was concerned about with Microsoft’s auto-renewing subscriptions, along with the company agreeing to implement these changes:
- “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”
The Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA, Michael Grenfell, commented on the ordeal, “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.”
While this issue is expected to roll out in the UK immediately, a Microsoft spokesperson said, “Changes to inactive subscriptions will initially roll out in the UK and will be available globally soon.” This means Xbox subscription users should begin to see these changes soon as well. The CMA also wanted to emphasize that they may be looking into other companies’ memberships and auto-renew subscriptions as there are many out there like PlayStation Plus or PS Now and Nintendo Switch Online.
Essentially, the biggest change for consumers is refunds, which will be dealt with better. So, if someone was on a 12-month contract, they will be offered a refund even after renewal, and will get their money back in proportion to how much time they had left on the subscription. Maybe it is time for everyone to double-check their bank accounts and subscription services right now…I will also go check if I have any outstanding subscriptions.