Some of the largest gaming companies, including Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, and Nintendo, are all being investigated by the UK Government’s Competition and Markets Authority. They are being investigated to find out whether their auto-renewal terms or roll-over contracts are “unfair”.
The CMA is interested in the companies online gaming memberships, such as Xbox Live. It is concerned about the auto-renewal terms, cancellation and refunds policies and terms and conditions of these services. It says it has “written to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation and Xbox requesting information about their online gaming contracts to help better understand their practices.”
As part of its investigation, the CMA has noted the 3 areas it is interested in:
- are the contract terms unfair? – do the companies’ terms give them wide discretion to change the quality of the deal, for example, by reducing the number of games included or increasing the price?
- how easy it is to cancel or obtain a refund? – are there any factors that make it difficult for people to cancel their contract or get their money back?
- how fair is the auto-renewal process? – are customers clearly told that their membership will be rolled over, are they regularly reminded that they are on a roll-over contract before further payments are taken, and is auto-renewal set as the default option?
It is important to note that the CMA has not yet taken a view on whether the companies being investigated have breached any consumer laws, but it does want to find out if the biggest online gaming companies are being fair with their membership services.
You can read the CMA’s full announcement here.