Several months ago, three of gaming's leading console manufacturers, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, were under investigation by the US government after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent out warnings regarding the placement of "Warranty Void if Removed" stickers on their products. Now, it appears that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom is opening up an investigation regarding the business practices of the three companies, specifically their online subscription models.
Last Friday, the CMA announced that it will be holding an investigation to determine whether PlayStation Plus, Xbox Live, and Nintendo Switch Online are compliant with the letter of the law. The focus of the investigation will be on the use of auto-renewal features for online gaming contracts, the cancellation and refund policies, and each company's respective terms and conditions.
Apart from selling consoles and games, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are also offering online services that require a monthly fee from its players. The services rendered would generally include access to online multiplayer play, online communication with other gamers, and monthly free games for players to enjoy. However, these memberships also feature an auto-renew feature that charges the user for a new subscription every pay period.
To ensure that Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are all providing a fair subscription plan, the CMA has written to the companies to provide detailed information on their online business models to help the agency "better understand their practices." Current subscribers of these online services are also encouraged by the CMA to contact them and share their experiences to aid with the ongoing investigation.
"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."
As of the moment, the CMA still has no initial views on whether the aforementioned companies are in compliance with consumer protection law. However, Andrea Coscelli, the agency's chief executive assured gamers that if their findings conclude a violation of the consumer protection law, the CMA is fully prepared to take the necessary actions to rectify it. "Rollover contracts are becoming more and more commonplace and it's essential that they work well for customers," Coscelli said.
Source: The Guardian