Investigation Pushes Sony And Nintendo To Change How Their Subscription Services Work

Investigation Pushes Sony And Nintendo To Change How Their Subscription Services Work
Image: Sony / Nintendo / Kotaku Australia

Auto-renewals of subscription services are the bane of many people’s existence. I know this feeling all too well, as I am Boo Boo The Fool when it comes to forgetting about free trials.

Back in 2019, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom launched an investigation into the online subscription services of the big three gaming companies: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. This investigation covered a myriad of issues, including cancellation and refund policies, terms and conditions, price increases, and notably auto-renewal services.

Said investigation officially closed yesterday, with a press release coming out from the CMA as Sony and Nintendo decided to make improvements to their subscription services. Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA, had this to say on the closure of the investigation:

“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.

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.”

The newest changes relate to Sony and Nintendo in particular, as Microsoft moved to resolve issues brought up by the CMA back in January.

Upon the closure of this investigation, 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’. The CMA explains that Sony will have to get in contact with idle customers to remind them how to end payments, and will stop taking payments if said customers continue to remain idle.

Nintendo has also agreed to end its use of automatic renewal as a default option when purchasing Nintendo Switch Online. According to the CMA, this means ‘people will not be automatically entering into renewing contracts, addressing a number of the CMA’s concerns about people becoming locked in.

This is a welcome relief for many who have probably been surprised by an unexpected payment to these companies, especially if they’re not using the services provided anymore.

Comments

  • “…addressing a number of the CMA’s concerns about people becoming locked in.”

    People not reading the fine print that their subscription will auto-renew and not opting out via the checkbox isn’t really the same as being locked-in to paying a subscription, as you might have with mobile service contracts. There is always the option to cancel or turn off automatic renewals for most competent online subscription services.

    Still, it’s more likely than not that most of their customers never read the contracts and agreements they sign unless they’re on physical paper, so removing the annoying step of having to always opt-out is welcome.

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