Microsoft is spending big money to acquire Activision Blizzard, but it’s also rethinking the way it’ll accept payment from you, the consumer. The conclusion of a UK investigation could have ramifications for the Xbox brand around the world.
The Competition and Markets Authority, a wing of the UK government, has secured “changes to Xbox subscription practices,” its press release declares. It’s one conclusion from an investigation that started looking into Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo in 2019. Specifically, it investigated the companies’ use of auto-renewals for subscriptions like Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus, and Nintendo Switch Online.
At this stage, only Xbox has been brought into the spotlight, but the company will be changing its policies in the UK as a result. There are four different actions Xbox will now take, starting with providing more upfront information about costs, like making it clear that “subscription[s] will auto-renew unless the customer turns off auto-renewal.” It will also contact current 12-month subscription holders and offer the option to continue with their current subscriptions or cancel and receive a prorated refund. Likewise, it will contact inactive members with ongoing subscriptions and stop taking further payments if they remain inactive. Finally, Xbox will be clearer about price hikes in the future, again letting subscribers know about auto-renewal.
All in all, these are good changes for consumers in the UK — it combats the “gym membership trap” many folks fall into, where they pay for something they simply don’t use, perhaps by accident. Furthermore, these changes could have a global effect, causing Xbox to be clearer about its pricing and subscriptions to customers around the world. Hopefully, the CMA can get similar results from Sony and Nintendo too.
Europe is generally more on top of consumer issues like this, though the United States did propose a loot box bill in 2019. To its credit, Xbox’s use of loot boxes isn’t as pervasive as some other big companies. There are no loot boxes in Halo Infinite, for example.