Microsoft are making their auto-renewing subscriptions more flexible under pressure from the CMA, the UK's Competition And Markets Authority. The regulator's investigation began in 2019 and ended this past week, with the CMA saying they had "secured undertakings" that impact Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass. The changes include Microsoft refunding and even cancelling subscriptions in cases where customers "haven't used their memberships for a long time."
Like most subscription services, Microsoft regularly advertise Game Pass with a £1-a-month offer that then auto-renews at full price after three months. As access to media increasingly depends on various subscription service, it's easy to sign up to an account and then forget about it.
The changes the CMA have secured include offering clearer information to customers about auto-renewal policies, offering pro-rata refunds to customers who cancel during a recurring 12-month sub, refunding and automatically cancelling unused accounts, and better information about price increases.
Here's the full breakdwon, as shared by the CMA:
- 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
These changes are described as an "undertaking", which means this is a "voluntary agreement" on Microsoft's part to address the CMA's concerns without the need for court action.
"Other companies offering memberships and subscriptions that auto-renew should take note, and review their practices to ensure they comply with consumer protection law," said the CMA's Executive Director Of Enforcement, Michael Greenfell.
While the CMA is a UK regulator and changes will roll out in the UK first, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to The Verge that the improvements "will be available globally soon."