UK regulator turns the screws on Microsoft for more flexible Xbox subscriptions

Microsoft's Xbox and PC Game Pass service has over 25 million subscribers. It also has an Xbox Live Gold membership option that offers free games that users can play as long as they have an active subscription. And while the content packed in both is certainly enticing, it seems that a UK regulator, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), wants more flexibility for gamers when it comes to how they manage their Xbox subscriptions. It has now reached an understanding with Microsoft about how it governs subscriptions and their renewals on its platform.

A UK flag with a Microsoft logo on the left and Xbox logos on all corners

This is the result of an investigation looking into concerns from online gamers related to confusion about auto-renewal mechanisms, the difficulty associated with turning them off, and the potential of being billed for a service that they do not use any longer, if they forget to turn auto-renewal off.

In a joint understanding with the CMA, Microsoft has agreed to make 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

The last point is certainly interesting because Microsoft did find itself in hot water recently for suddenly hiking the price of Xbox Live Gold in an apparent bid to get people to switch to Xbox Game Pass. The company was forced to backpedal on its decision following backlash from gamers. It remains to be seen how quickly the Redmond tech giant will implement the latest changes agreed upon with the CMA.

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