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Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo online services being investigated by UK government

Wants to know if contracts are "unfair".

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are all being investigated by the UK government's Competition and Markets Authority watchdog, to establish, among other things, whether the auto-renewal terms of Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, and Nintendo Switch Online are "unfair".

Based on the CMA's initial announcement, it's a fairly broad investigation, and will seek to answer a number of questions. The watchdog says it's written to Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony to "help better understand their practices" when it comes to their online gaming services.

Specifically, the CMA says it's looking to ascertain whether the companies' contracts are 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 secure a refund ("are there any factors that make it difficult for people to cancel their contract or get their money back?"), and whether the auto-renewal process is fair.

On this latter point, the CMA says it's curious to know whether customers are "clearly told that their membership will be rolled over, [if they're] regularly reminded that they are on a roll-over contract before further payments are taken, and [if] auto-renewal [is] set as the default option".

The watchdog stresses that no verdict has yet been reached on whether Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft have "broken consumer protection law", but it could take "enforcement action" if it decides the companies' practices are misleading or unfair.

According to the CMA, the investigation is part of a "Citizens Advice 'super-complaint'", which previously looked at issues around loyalty penalty. The watchdog says that it's seeking the views of players with current or expired memberships to Switch Online, PlayStation Plus, and Xbox Live Gold, and there's an email address for those with something to say.