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Microsoft to cancel inactive Xbox Game Pass subscriptions following UK investigation

Xbox Game Pass at Gamescom 2018
Xbox Game Pass at Gamescom 2018 (Image credit: Matt Brown / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is making changes to its Xbox gaming subscription services in the UK in direct response to a 2019 Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation.
  • The changes, which apply to Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold subscriptions in the region, aim to improve transparency around auto-renewal for its services.
  • Microsoft will offer pro-rata refunds under the new policy, with Microsoft automatically canceling subscriptions for some inactive users.

Microsoft will soon change its Xbox subscription services in the UK, following a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into auto-renewal practices among gaming platform holders. The 2019 investigation scrutinized offerings from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo in the UK, including how services handle their respective memberships. The CMA has now stated that Microsoft plans to change its Xbox gaming subscriptions in the region in response to the UK regulator's prompts.

The CMA states Microsoft will contact inactive subscribers to gaming services like Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold, serving as a reminder of ongoing payments, with steps to cancel. Microsoft will automatically cancel those subscriptions if users remain inactive. Pro-rata refunds will also be available for those who purchase bulk subscriptions moving forward.

Microsoft will also make Xbox subscriptions transparent moving forward according to the CMA (via @PiersHR) with information on auto-renewals and pricing communicated to members. Communications with subscribers will include steps to cancel Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold, and claim refunds on accidental renewals.

The CMA also states Microsoft will issue annual reminders for those on 12-month plans. However, Microsoft has ended 12-month plans for all Xbox subscriptions at this time, limiting bulk memberships to pre-paid codes from third-party retailers.

"Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships and subscriptions," stated CMA executive director of enforcement, Michael Grenfell.

"We are therefore pleased that Microsoft has given the CMA these formal undertakings to improve the fairness of their practices and protect consumers, and will be offering refunds to certain customers. Other companies offering memberships and subscriptions that auto-renew should take note, and review their practices to ensure they comply with consumer protection law."

Xbox Series S

Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

The move follows a CMA investigation aimed to assess transparency around auto-renewal and subscriptions, including changes to services and payment terms. Microsoft is the first to issue changes in direct response to the investigation, set to impact its Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and Xbox Live Gold subscriptions.

Xbox Game Pass remains fundamental to the future of Microsoft's Xbox gaming vision, recently surpassing 25 million subscribers. The company continues to invest in expanding its rotating video game library, with its latest $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard expected to bolster Game Pass offerings.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, its premium tier-subscription service, is available from $14.99 / £10.99, including access to Xbox console, PC, and mobile offerings, plus supplementary services like Xbox Live Gold and EA Play.

Matt Brown is a senior editor at Future for Windows Central. Following six years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Xbox and Windows PCs. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.