Whether it’s the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, or Nintendo’s fledgeling online service, chances are you’ve been served with an e-mail informing you that your online subscription has been auto-renewed.
These notices can come out of the blue and are usually made all the more frustrating when there are savings to be had purchasing membership cards for these online services through third parties.
It’s something which frankly, most if not all game console owning players will experience at some stage or another.
But now it’s become a big enough issue to attract the attention of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) who will be launching an investigation into all three console giants – Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
The official investigation report reads:
“The CMA is concerned about whether some of these companies’ business practices are legal, such as their use of auto-renewals for online gaming contracts, their cancellation and refund policies and their terms and conditions.”
“The independent watchdog has already reached out to each of three platform holders and is also asking PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and Nintendo Switch Online users to get in touch with their own experiences of these services.” continues the report.
“One part of the investigation will focus on the aforementioned auto-renewal processes in place. This probe will look into whether customers are told up-front that they’re signing up for a rolling contract, as well as how regularly active users are reminded about their auto-renewal.”
Another factor being considered is how easy these services can be cancelled and whether users can obtain a refund.
Finally, the CMA will study the fairness of the contract terms between PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, and their customers.
This includes price increases as well as changes to what each service is offering in terms of quality.
Microsoft recently announced that next month it will be increasing the cost of its Xbox Live subscription here in the UK due to “changing market conditions”.
A price hike of 25% across all membership plans will come into action as of May 8th 2018, with 30 days priced at £6.99 and an annual pass setting you back £49.99.
Meanwhile, at the beginning of the year, Sony reduced the number of free monthly games it offers with its PlayStation Plus subscription to just two PS4 titles.
Previously, the service granted access to at least four free games, those these additional titles were only available on older systems including the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
Still, this change in policy was met with negative feedback despite Sony’s recent PS+ games arguably being better in terms of size and quality.
The CMA has yet to report its findings to the public or reach a verdict as to whether any of the three companies are in breach of UK consumer protection laws.
If they are found to be breaking these laws then the CMA could take “enforcement action”.