Sony and Nintendo will be changing how they handle auto-renewing PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online subscriptions in the UK, after similar pro-consumer changes were made by Microsoft earlier this year.
Following an investigation by the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), Sony and Nintendo will be rolling out alterations to the services that will make it harder for inactive subscribers to accidentally pay for the services they no longer want.
Sony has agreed to stop taking payments from PlayStation Plus members who haven't used the service in a long time, and remind inactive subscribers how to stop paying for the service.
Nintendo, meanwhile, has already changed its renewal policy. Nintendo Switch Online subscriptions are no longer sold with auto-renewal set as the default options, preventing players from automatically taking out monthly renewing contracts.
Previously, PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online would indefinitely charge players until they actively ended their membership. That meant you could end up accidentally paying for the services for potentially months at a time because you’d forgotten to cancel them.
The CMA said these changes will go some way to prevent that, protecting consumers who often find it unclear whether their subscriptions automatically roll over each month, as well as difficult to turn off the auto-renewal process.
“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 the CMA’s executive director of enforcement, Michael Grenfell.
“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.”
Following Microsoft's lead
The updates follow similar changes made by Microsoft to its Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass memberships earlier in the year. Like Sony, Microsoft will now remind inactive customers how to stop their subscription payments, and eventually stop taking payments from them if they continue to not use their membership.
The CMA later clarified to The Verge (opens in new tab) that these changes “to inactive subscriptions will initially roll out in the UK and will be available globally soon", possibly suggesting Sony and Nintendo will also rollout their changes worldwide, too.
Microsoft has also committed to adapting its refunds policy. The company will now contact customers who’ve taken out recurring 12-month packages and give them the option to end their contract, as well as grant a pro-rata refund for any unused months they paid without realizing.
There’s still room for improvement, mind. PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass users still aren't presented the option to turn off auto-renewal when they first take out a subscription, meaning they’ll have manually switch it off, or rely on Microsoft and Sony’s reminders. And if you forget to request a refund for any inactive you accidentally used, you’ll be left out of pocket.
It’s certainly a step in the right direction, and will hopefully go some way to curb the aggressive subscription practices prevalent across tech. These changes might encourage other, large companies to follow suit, including Amazon, which has long been criticized by consumer rights groups for obscuring how to cancel your Prime membership.