It’s a (modern) age-old problem. You sign up for something – be it at full price, on a free trial, or at a reduced introductory rate – and forget to cancel again when you decide it’s not for you. It’s happened to the best of us (I hate to think how much money various gym companies have had off me), but hopefully more companies are going to introduce automatic cancellation of aged accounts. And Microsoft is leading the pack – but only in the UK for now.
This only affects the UK for now, as the agency leading the investigation is a UK governmental body – the CMA, or Competition and Markets Authority. The CMA are currently investigating the online video gaming sector – so not just Microsoft – and hope that these changes to Xbox’s memberships will encourage other companies to do the same.
Clearer information about Xbox auto-renewals
As part of the agreement that Microsoft have made with the CMA, Microsoft must provide “more transparent, upfront information to help customers understand their Xbox membership.” This means, for example, clearer information about pricing, auto-renewal, and the refund process after accidental auto-renewal. The CMA’s investigation also takes into consideration how easy it is to remove auto-renewal, but this isn’t directly mentioned in the suggested improvements, perhaps because – to Microsoft’s credit – it’s quite an easy process already.
Pro-rata 12-month subscription refunds
Another really interesting development is a change to 12-month subscriptions. If people aren’t still using their memberships towards the end of the annual period, Microsoft must contact them, give them the option to end their contract before auto-renewal, and even offer a partial, pro-rata refund for any months of inactivity.
Automatic cancellation of dormant Xbox Live and Game Pass accounts
Finally, after a certain period of time, Microsoft will contact users who are still paying for unused accounts and remind them to cancel if they so wish. If the accounts remain dormant, eventually, Microsoft will terminate the account and stop taking further payments.
CMA say other companies should “take note”
According to an official statement on the UK Government’s website, the CMA’s Executive Director of Enforcement, Michael Grenfell, says that “other companies… should take note, “ and review their own practices. He continued, “Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships,” and that the CMA are “pleased that Microsoft has given the CMA these formal undertaking to improve the fairness of their practices and protect consumers.”
See more about the full report and the wider gaming investigation on the CMA’s website. IF you want to know more about Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, including how to cancel them, follow the above links to our specific guide pages.