The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has begun an investigation into the three companies’ business practices over their subscription renewal methods.
Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are now being investigated to ensure that they’re not in breach of UK consumer law when it comes to the auto-renewal terms of their online subscription services, as well as their Ts & Cs, and cancellation and refund policies.
The CMA has contacted all three companies requesting information on their online gaming contracts, and is asking customers to reach out to the CMA to share their own experiences with the service.
“Our investigation will look into whether the biggest online gaming companies are being fair with their customers when they automatically renew their contracts, and whether people can easily cancel or get a refund.
“Should we find that the firms aren’t treating people fairly under consumer protection law, we are fully prepared to take action.”
The case page specifically hones in the following issues:
- 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?
As the investigation has only just launched, the CMA hasn’t “reached a view as to whether or not companies have broken consumer protection law,” yet.
Last year, EA, Nintendo, Sony, and Valve were reported by Norway for not complying with EU consumer laws, which states that customers have a 14-day window after making a purchase to request and receive a refund.
At the start of this month, Sony updated its refund policy to allow for refunds within 14 days of purchase.
Meanwhile, Valve – along with five publishers – is currently under investigation for breach of anti-trust laws for geo–blocking.
The latter investigation began in 2013, so these things clearly take time to resolve.
If you’re in the UK and would like to get in touch with the CMA with your experiences of Nintendo’s, Microsoft’s, and Sony’s services, you can find instructions on how to do so here.