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UK government cracks down on PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online

PS Plus logo with PS5 controller
(Image credit: Miguel Lagoa | Shutterstock)

PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online each have their ups and downs, but they share at least one important trait: They’re a waste of money if you’re not actively using them.

Even so, tech companies can rake in a ton of money on idle subscriptions, simply because users don’t cancel auto-renewal options. Following an investigation by a UK government body, Sony and Nintendo will now have to be more transparent with their users about auto-renewals — and may refuse to take payments altogether, if the subscriptions go unused.

Information comes from GamesIndustry.biz, which described a Competition and Markets Authority investigation into the three major console manufacturers. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the CMA is an economic regulatory body in the UK, which works to ensure that big corporations are playing fairly with consumers. A few months back, the organization investigated Microsoft, and convinced the Xbox manufacturer to make its Game Pass subscription options clearer and more comprehensible.

This time around, Sony and Nintendo came under the microscope. The CMA argued that auto-renewal can be a consumer-unfriendly option. As such, Nintendo Switch Online’s auto-renewal process will now be opt-in rather than opt-out.

If Sony finds that a PS Plus account has been sitting idle, the company will contact the user and let them know how to cancel the subscription.

Sony will actually go one step further for PS Plus subscriptions. The company will monitor whether gamers actually use their PS Plus subscriptions, whether it’s to play online or download complimentary games. If Sony finds that a PS Plus account has been sitting idle, the company will contact the user and let them know how to cancel the subscription. Even more remarkable: If a user doesn’t cancel the subscription, but still doesn’t use PS Plus for anything, Sony will eventually stop accepting money for it.

Since Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all complied with the CMA inquiries and directives, a CMA spokesman has declared the investigation over. If you live in the UK, you can now rest just a little bit easier about spending your money on Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo online subscriptions.

However, just because the three manufacturers made these changes in the UK, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is about to follow suit. The CMA has limited authority outside of the UK, and its directives don’t apply to other major markets, such as east Asia or North America.  Still, taking a pro-customer stance could help the console manufacturers build some goodwill, and that’s a good thing when your consoles are perpetually in short supply.  

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.