Published: 13:32, 26 January 2022
| Updated: 16:25, 26 January 2022
Xbox subscriptions are set to change after concerns were raised about the service offered to online gamers.
Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass allow players to access a library of games and play together online.
The packages, offered as memberships which people must pay for, are often taken out on an auto-renewal basis that means the membership is automatically rolled over at the end of each contract period and customers are charged again unless they actively stop their subscription.
But after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), into the online console video gaming sector, concerns were raised about certain features of the Xbox subscription service and in particular whether it was clear to gamers initially signing-up that their contract would automatically renew and take more of their money when it expired.
How easy it was to turn off the automatic renewal feature and whether people realised they were still paying for online gaming services with Xbox they no longer used was also looked at as part of the investigation by the independent government department.
The CMA says it has now reached an agreement with tech giant Microsoft that it will make improvements to its Xbox subscription services.
These will include providing better upfront information for Xbox customers to help them understand the terms of their membership including that the subscription they have taken out will auto-renew unless the customer turns off that option, when that renewal will happen, how much will it cost and how customers can receive any refund after an accidental renewal.
Microsoft, says the CMA, will also contact existing customers who are on recurring 12-month contracts and give them the option to end their contract and claim a pro-rata refund while those customers with memberships who haven't used the service or played online for a long time but are still paying money to Microsoft, will also be reminded how to stop their payments and that if they continue not to use their memberships that the firm will ultimately stop taking money.
The company has also pledged to make sure its information about price increases is better - with clearer notifications to be sent to Xbox's online users about future price rises alongside information about how to turn off auto-renewal features if they don't want to pay the higher price when the deal they are currently on ends.
Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, said: "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.
"Other companies offering memberships and subscriptions that auto-renew should take note, and review their practices to ensure they comply with consumer protection law."
To read about the changes in full click here.