Thursday, January 27, 2022

Xbox Changing How It Handles Renewals for Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold in the UK

Xbox is changing how it handles automatic renewals for both Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold subscriptions in the UK, after the government got involved. It's not clear if those changes will be made in other regions.

The changes by Microsoft were revealed as part of a report (spotted by Eurogamer) following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the video game sector that highlighted a number of concerns about Microsoft's online gaming services.

According to the CMA, the concerns related to Microsoft were particularly focused on the company's auto-renewal processes and revolved around several key factors - whether or not the company was clear upfront that its subscription contracts would renew, how easy it was to cancel or turn off automatic renewal, and whether people may not have realised that they were still paying for the service long after they'd stopped using it.

As per the report, the CMA has stated that Microsoft has undertaken a number of voluntary arrangements to improve its Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold auto-renewal services, which include the following 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

Following the action from Microsoft, Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA Michael Grenfell issued a statement detailing the need for companies to act in a similar fashion. "Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships and subscriptions," explained Grenfell.

"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."

It's not clear if Microsoft will bring those changes to other markets, or if this will remain an approach specifically for the UK. We've contacted the company for comment.

For more recent news surrounding Xbox Game Pass, make sure to check out this piece detailing everything that's being made available on the service across this month.

Jared Moore is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.


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