Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are under investigation by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over their online subscription services.
The CMA says it's "concerned" about whether some of the three gaming giants' business practices are legal. These include auto-renewal policies for online subscription services like PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online, as well as cancellation and refund policies. The authority says it's written to Nintendo, PlayStation, and Microsoft requesting "information about their online gaming contracts". It's also asking people who subscribe to these services to get in touch and share their experiences.
Several issues are on the table here as far as the CMA is concerned. It's interested in whether the three companies can easily "change the quality of the deal" for online services, reducing the number of games offered or increasing the price. Additionally, the CMA wants to know how easy obtaining a refund or canceling the contract is, as well as whether the auto-renewal process for subscriptions is clearly explained and fairly communicated. CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli says the authority is "fully prepared to take action" should it find any evidence of Nintendo, Sony, and/or Microsoft breaking consumer protection law.
This investigation into gaming practices comes as part of the CMA's response to the recent 'loyalty penalty' super-complaint from Citizens Advice. The complaint concerned fears that customers were paying a 'loyalty penalty' by paying significantly more for certain services than new customers. That case is now closed, but the CMA is turning its gaze to gaming companies with a similarly critical eye.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for enforcing competition and consumer law. Should you wish to know the specific pieces of legislation relevant to this particular investigation, you can read the full UK government website brief here.
This isn't the only recent controversy around video games in the United Kingdom recently. Just yesterday, Prince Harry called for Fortnite to be banned due to being addictive.
What is your opinion on the fairness of the three major gaming companies' subscription services? Let us know in the comments below!