UPDATE: Changes will roll out globally.
UPDATE 28/1/21: Microsoft has now said that the changes to Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass agreed with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority will be rolled out worldwide. “Changes to inactive subscriptions will initially roll out in the UK and will be available globally soon,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge.
Details of all the changes are listed below in our original report.
ORIGINAL STORY 27/1/21: Microsoft will make changes to how it handles auto-renewal for subscriptions to Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass after agreeing to a set of commitments with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The regulator is currently investigating auto-renewal practices from the big three platform holders: Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.
Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will make the following improvements to address the CMA’s concerns:
- 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.
Michael Grenfell, the CMA’s Executive Director of Enforcement, noted: “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 CMA’s investigation will continue and we will likely see similar changes made by both Sony and Nintendo in a matter of time.
While these changes are clearly welcome, it isn’t clear whether Microsoft will apply the same changes outside the UK.