Microsoft will stop billing dormant Game Pass members... in two years

Changes to inactive memberships will roll out in the UK first and worldwide soon.

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It's all too easy for some folks to sign up for a service, pay a subscription fee every month and forget all about it. With that in mind, Microsoft is tackling the issue of inactive Game Pass memberships. As part of broader changes to Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass in the UK, the company says it will cancel subscriptions that have long lain dormant.

The company will get in touch with people who are paying for an Xbox Live Gold or Game Pass subscription but haven't used it for at least a year. It'll tell them how to stop their payments if they want to opt out. If those people keep forking over cash every month without using their memberships for another 12 consecutive months, Microsoft will eventually stop taking payments.

The change will apply to UK consumers at first. Microsoft told The Verge it will roll them out globally in the near future.

The company took up the measure — which it committed to for at least three years in the UK — as part of a voluntary agreement with the country's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The regulator has been investigating auto-renewing subscriptions on Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch since 2019. Sony and Nintendo haven't committed to similar undertakings as yet.

Along with changes to inactive subscriptions, Microsoft has agreed to offer better upfront information about memberships, including clear details about auto-renewals, when subscriptions will be reupped, how much people will pay and a way to get a refund if they accidentally renew their plan.

It will contact users who have recurring annual subscriptions and offer them a chance to cancel and receive a prorated refund. Microsoft will also provide clearer notifications about Game Pass and Live Gold price rises and tell users how to turn off auto-renewals.

"Gamers need to be given clear and timely information to make informed choices when signing up for auto-renewing memberships and subscriptions," said Michael Grenfell, the CMA's executive director of enforcement. We are therefore pleased that Microsoft has given the CMA these formal undertakings to improve the fairness of their practices and protect consumers, and will be offering refunds to certain customers."

From time to time, it's worth taking a look at whether you're getting your money's worth out of your various subscriptions. If not, there's little harm in pausing or canceling them. You can always sign back up later.