Wouldn’t it be great if that barely used PlayStation Plus or Nintendo Switch Online subscription would automatically cancel themselves? That’s the kind of benefit that gamers in the UK should soon enjoy courtesy of an investigation by the country’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which launched a query into Sony and Nintendo’s gaming subscription practices and determined that they could be better aligned with the interests of consumers. The former has agreed to sending out reminders to subscribers who have been inactive and stopping payments altogether for affected accounts, while the latter will no longer sell its service with automatic renewals enabled by default. Microsoft had already agreed to canceling dormant Xbox memberships in the UK (and eventually worldwide) earlier this year.
“As a result of our investigations, a number of changes have been made across this sector to protect customers and help tackle concerns about auto-renewing subscriptions,” said Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA.
“Today’s announcement therefore concludes our investigations into the online video gaming sector. Companies in other sectors which offer subscriptions that auto-renew should review their practices to ensure they comply with consumer protection law.”
CMA welcomes Sony and Nintendo’s gaming subscription improvements (Gov.uk)
The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) sector-wide investigation looked at subscriptions for online gaming services where people automatically continue to be charged indefinitely until they take action to end their contract. The CMA was particularly concerned that people might find themselves locked into paying for services they no longer want or use.
The CMA has an secured an undertaking from Sony relating to its PlayStation Plus product, a service which allows users to play online together. In particular, Sony has agreed to put in place measures to protect customers who haven’t used their memberships for a long time but are still paying. Sony will contact these customers to remind them how to stop payments and, if they continue not to use their memberships, Sony will ultimately stop taking further payments.
The CMA also engaged with Nintendo, which changed its business practices during the course of the investigation so that Nintendo Switch Online Service is no longer sold with automatic renewal set as the default option. This means people will not be automatically entering into renewing contracts, addressing a number of the CMA’s concerns about people becoming locked in.