Microsoft pledges transparency in Xbox subscriptions in Britain

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Jan 26 (Reuters) – Microsoft will begin offering more information to customers about how it automatically renews Xbox online gaming subscriptions in Britain, the UK’s competition watchdog said on Wednesday.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) secured undertakings from Microsoft for the U.S. tech giant to tell customers upfront about auto-renewals for Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass subscriptions that start at 7 pounds ($9.50) a month.

Clearer information will help gamers avoid being charged for services they have stopped using, the CMA said.

“We have co-operated with the CMA to address its concerns and are pleased to have reached an agreement that includes some changes,” a Microsoft spokesperson said via email.

Microsoft has also agreed to contact inactive customers to remind them how to stop payments and provide clearer notifications about future price hikes. Additionally, existing customers on recurring one-year subscriptions will be given an option to end their contracts and claim pro-rata refunds.

“Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships and subscriptions,” Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, said in a statement.

“Other companies offering memberships and subscriptions that auto-renew should take note, and review their practices to ensure they comply with consumer protection law,” Grenfell said.

The CMA’s concerns around Microsoft’s practices represent its latest clash with Big Tech. The watchdog has taken on Facebook over its acquisition of Giphy, and recently criticised Google and Apple, saying the two firms use their market power to create largely self-contained ecosystems.

Microsoft last week deepened its footprint in the videogame industry, agreeing to buy “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard for $69 billion in its largest ever acquisition.

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