Microsoft makes ‘carbon negative’ pledge

Microsoft has pledged to remove “all of the carbon” from the environment that it has emitted since the company was founded in 1975.

Chief executive Satya Nadella said he wanted to achieve the goal by 2050 .

To do so, the company aims to become “carbon negative” by 2030, removing more carbon from the environment than it emits.

That goes beyond a pledge by its cloud-computing rival Amazon, which intends to go “carbon neutral” by 2040.

“When it comes to carbon, neutrality is not enough,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith.

“The carbon in our atmosphere has created a blanket of gas that traps heat and is changing the world’s climate,” he added in a blog.

“If we don’t curb emissions, and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.”

Carbon neutral v carbon negative

When a business says it is carbon neutral, it aims to effectively add no carbon to the atmosphere.

It can do this by:

  • balancing its emissions, for example by removing a tonne of carbon from the atmosphere for every tonne it has produced
  • offsetting its emissions, for example by investing in projects that reduce emissions elsewhere in the world
  • not releasing greenhouse gases in the first place, for example by switching to renewable energy sources

Until now, most companies have focused on offsetting emissions to achieve neutrality.

This often involves funding projects in developing economies to reduce carbon emissions there, for example building hydroelectric power plants, encouraging families to stop using wood-based stoves, and helping businesses make use of solar power. These reductions are then deducted from the main company’s own output.

The result of this slows carbon emissions rather than reversing them.

To be carbon negative a company must actually remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits.

Microsoft says it will do this using a range of carbon capture and storage technologies.

The announcement was largely welcomed by environmentalists, who said it showed Microsoft was thinking about the bigger climate change picture and not just its own role.

“It’s a hat trick of sustainability leadership,” said Elizabeth Sturcken from the Environmental Defence Fund.

“But to really shift the needle on climate change, we need 1,000 other [companies] to follow-suit and turn rhetoric into action.”

However, Greenpeace warned that Microsoft still needed to address its ongoing relationship with oil and gas companies.

“While there is a lot to celebrate in Microsoft’s announcement, a gaping hole remains unaddressed: Microsoft’s expanding efforts to help fossil fuel companies drill more oil and gas with machine-learning and other AI technologies,” said senior campaigner Elizabeth Jardim.

Microsoft’s plan is still more aggressive than those taken by other tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, which have not made “carbon negative” commitments.

How will Microsoft achieve its goal?

Microsoft has suggested a range of ways it could remove carbon from the atmosphere, including:

  • seeding new forests and expanding existing ones
  • soil carbon sequestration – a process of putting carbon back into the ground. This could be achieved by adding microbes and nutrients to parched earth, which should have the added benefits of making the soil more fertile and less susceptible to erosion
  • direct air capture – sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, possibly by using large fans to move air through a filter that can remove the gas
  • bio-energy with carbon capture – growing crops and then capturing the CO2 they emit when, for example, they are burned to produce heat or fermented to make fuels such as bioethanol. Negative emissions become possible if the amount of CO2 stored as a result is greater than that emitted during production, transport and use

Tech companies’ manufacturing and data-processing centres create large amounts of carbon dioxide.

By one estimate, the sector will account for up to 3.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions this year, more than double the level in 2007. And it has been forecast that in a worst-case scenario, this could grow to 14% by 2040.

Microsoft has said it plans to halve emissions created directly by itself and those involved in its supply chain by 2030.

One way the company intends to do this is by increasing the carbon fees it charges its internal business groups.

Since 2012, Microsoft has forced its divisions to set budgets that take account of the cost of emissions created through electricity use, business travel and other activities.

Now that charge will incorporate indirect emissions such as those created by customers using electricity to power the divisions’ products.

And since Microsoft cannot avoid producing CO2 altogether, it will invest in technologies to capture and store the gas to reduce the amount in the atmosphere.

Mr Smith said this would involve tech “that doesn’t fully exist today”.

The firm added that its data centres and other facilities would use 100% renewable energy by 2025.

How do Microsoft’s plans compare to rivals?

Software-maker Intuit has also pledged to be carbon negative by 2030.

The Californian company has said it will reduce emissions by 50 times more than its 2018 carbon footprint.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced in September 2019 that his company would be carbon neutral by 2040.

His pledge included plans to buy 100,000 electric vehicles for the online retailer’s delivery fleet.

Google has launched a set of digital tools to allow cities to track and reduce emissions. The search giant also offsets its own emissions by investing in green projects.

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Microsoft ends Windows 7 support: What should you do?

Cyber-security experts are urging Windows 7 users to upgrade their operating system.

Microsoft is going to stop supporting Windows 7 from Tuesday so that it can focus on “newer technologies”.

As a result, Windows 7 users will no longer receive the all-important security updates and patches that keep their machines safe.

One in four Windows users is running Windows 7, according to statistics website StatCounter.

What does this all mean?

It means that Microsoft is ending the cat-and-mouse game with hackers seeking to exploit software bugs in the Windows 7 operating system.

If perpetrators find a flaw in Windows 7, Microsoft will not fix it.

Without continued software and security updates, Windows 7 machines are more likely to be infected with viruses and malware, Microsoft wrote on its website.

“Running an unpatched machine means that the flaws in the code will never be fixed and as exploits for those flaws become known and widespread, your chances of being successfully attacked grow very rapidly,” said Rik Ferguson, vice-president of security research at Trend Micro.

David Emm, a senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, added that people need to move to a supported operating system as soon as possible.

What are the risks?

Hackers use malware to invade, damage or disable computers.

It can be used to steal personal and financial data, spy on other users without them knowing, and to hold companies to ransom until a payment is made.

In May 2017, the NHS was hit by the WannaCry ransomware attack.

A government report in 2018 concluded that the attack could have been avoided if NHS Trusts had updated their computers and applied the necessary security patches.

Hackers exploited weaknesses in unpatched versions of Windows 7, as well as to a lesser extent the earlier Windows XP, which Microsoft had stopped supporting.

What should you do with your Windows 7 PC?

Computers running Windows 7 will still function after Tuesday but they will become less and less secure.

Microsoft is urging people to move to Windows 10, a newer operating system that it sells for £120.

“Going forward, the best way for you to stay secure is on Windows 10,” it said. “And the best way to experience Windows 10 is on a new PC.”

It is possible to install Windows 10 on old PCs but Microsoft warns that it may not run smoothly.

In order to run Windows 10, PCs must have a 1GHz processor, 16GB of hard drive space, and 1GB of RAM memory.

“While it is possible to install Windows 10 on your older device, it is not recommended,” Microsoft said.

That said, Windows 7 users do not need to upgrade if they use their PC offline.

What do UK officials say?

UK authorities have warned Windows 7 users not to do internet banking or send emails after Tuesday.

The warning was issued by the National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of Britain’s intelligence agency GCHQ, and first reported by The Telegraph,.

“We would urge those using the software after the deadline to replace unsupported devices as soon as possible, to move sensitive data to a supported device and not to use them for tasks like accessing bank and other sensitive accounts,” an NCSC spokesperson told the BBC.

“They should also consider accessing email from a different device.”

What about for businesses?

Some companies rely heavily on applications that only work with Windows 7.

Businesses can pay Microsoft if they want to continue getting updates for Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise.

The Windows 7 Extended Security Updates will be available until 2023 for businesses of all sizes.

Charges range from $ 25 (£19) per device to $ 200 per device and increase each year. The costs will mount quickly for organisations with lots of computers.

For businesses, it is not always easy to upgrade to a newer operating system, Mr Ferguson said.

“There may be business-critical applications that will not run on newer operating systems, or there may be significant costs associated with upgrading those applications,” he said.

Places like hospitals and factories may have equipment that is designed to run exclusively on Windows 7.

“The user is not always able to upgrade without voiding the warranty,” said Mr Ferguson.

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Microsoft four-day work week ‘boosts productivity’

Microsoft Japan said sales had been boosted by nearly 40% during an experiment in which staff worked a four-day week on full pay.

Offices were closed on every Friday of August 2019 and full-time staff were given “special leave”, which was paid.

Meetings were restricted to a maximum of 30 minutes and online discussions were encouraged as an alternative to face-to-face.

Japan has some of the longest working hours in the world.

‘Rest smartly’

A 2017 survey suggested nearly a quarter of Japanese companies had employees working more than 80 hours overtime a month, often unpaid.

Microsoft’s Work Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer experiment was popular with 92% of the staff it surveyed after the event.

During the month-long trial, electricity consumption had been reduced by 23% and paper printing by 59% compared with August 2018, Microsoft said.

The technology giant said it was planning to implement a second Work Life Choice Challenge this winter but would not be offering the same “special leave”.

Staff would, however, be encouraged to take time off to “rest smartly”, it said.

Six days

In contrast, Jack Ma, co-founder of Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba, has championed 12-hour working days.

In April 2019, he described the “996” pattern, in which workers do 09:00-21:00 shifts, six days a week, as “a blessing”.

A report commissioned by the Labour Party in the UK suggested a four-day working week would be “unrealistic”.

“Even though some people are compelled to work shorter hours than they want to, most people are compelled to work longer hours than they want to,” the report. released in September, said.

Many workers find going part-time or reducing their days means they end up having to squeeze the same amount of work into the time they do have.

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Microsoft pips Amazon for $10bn AI ‘Jedi’ contract

The Pentagon has awarded a $ 10bn (£8bn) cloud-computing contract to Microsoft, following a heavily scrutinised bidding process in which Amazon had been seen as the favourite.

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure, or Jedi, is aimed at making the US defence department more technologically agile.

Amazon’s bid drew criticism from its rivals and US President Donald Trump.

The company said it was “surprised” by the decision.

A “detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings” would “clearly lead to a different conclusion”, it said.

Amazon is said to be evaluating its options after the decision. It has 10 days to decide whether or not to launch a challenge.

In its statement, the Pentagon said all offers “were treated fairly”.

Microsoft executive Toni Townes-Whitley said the company was “proud” to have had its cloud technologies picked by the Department of Defense to “satisfy the urgent and critical needs of today’s warfighters”.

What is Jedi?

The Department of Defense wants to replace its ageing computer networks with a single cloud system.

Under the contract, Microsoft will provide artificial intelligence-based analysis and host classified military secrets among other services.

It is hoped that Jedi will give the military better access to data and the cloud from battlefields.

Is the decision controversial?

Amazon had been considered the front-runner – until President Trump began questioning whether the process was fair.

In July he told reporters that he was getting “tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and Amazon”.

He said other companies had told him that the contract “wasn’t competitively bid” and that his administration would “take a very long look” at the process.

Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos – who also owns the Washington Post newspaper – in the past.

Dan Ives, managing director and equity analyst Wedbush Securities, said he expected Amazon and others to challenge the decision in the courts, but called it a “paradigm changer” for Microsoft.

The move was likely to boost Microsoft’s share price and bring “significant positive financial implications” for the company in the coming years, he said.

A blow for Amazon

By Leo Kelion, BBC Technology desk editor

Amazon will be bitterly disappointed to have lost this contract, having long considered its bid to be the stronger.

But after President Trump’s comments about “receiving tremendous complaints” about Amazon’s frontrunner status in July, and then the delay to announcing the award the following month, it had always looked liked Microsoft could pull off an upset.

The timing is curious, however, coming just days after Defence Secretary Mark Esper unexpectedly removed himself from the review process after months of involvement, on the grounds that one of his sons worked for IBM – one of the other original applicants.

It means Microsoft is now set to be a huge recipient of Department of Defense funds.

Not only will it benefit from Jedi, but also a separate multi-billion dollar contract known as Deos. This has run into delays of its own, but is still set to result in the DoD using cloud-based Office 365 for its email, calendar, video-calling and other productivity software needs.

One issue for Microsoft is whether its closeness to the military will cause it problems.

Some of its own workers have already objected to it developing a version of its Hololens augmented reality headset for the US military, and the idea of it now providing machine learning tools and other systems to help “enhance force lethality” could prove to be a PR nightmare.

For Amazon, if the loss of such a lucrative contract is linked to Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post, it could fuel calls for AWS to be spun off from its parent and established as a separate company. There had already been speculation this might happen in order to head off regulators’ concerns that Amazon already extends too deeply into Americans’ lives.

How did we get here?

The announcement marked the end of a long process that had pitted tech giants Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle and IBM against each other.

As the world’s biggest provider of cloud-computing services, Amazon had been the favourite to win Jedi. But its competitors argued that the process was unfair.

Oracle challenged the bidding process in federal court earlier this year, saying that it was rigged to favour Amazon, but a federal judge dismissed the allegation.

What else does the Pentagon say?

It said that it had awarded more than $ 11bn in 10 separate cloud-computing contracts over the past two years.

The Jedi deal “continues our strategy of a multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment as the department’s needs are diverse and cannot be met by any single supplier,” it added.

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Dozens arrested during ICE protest at New York Microsoft store

Dozens of demonstrators were arrested during a sit-in at a Microsoft store in New York on Saturday. The protest was organized by Close The Camps NYC as a response to Microsoft doing business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The event began with a march from the main branch of the New York Public Library to the Microsoft store on Fifth Avenue, located mere blocks from Trump Tower.

A Microsoft spokesperson said all of their customers and employees were safe. “We’re grateful to the NYPD for their help with protestors at our store on 5th Avenue. We’ve closed the store for the rest of the day and look forward to opening our doors again soon,” they said.

US-PROTEST-ICE-IMMIGRATION
Protestors block the entrance of a Microsoft store in midtown Manhattan during a rally against the US immigration policy on September 14, 2019 in New York City. Some dozens of protesters were arrested by the police after blocking the 5th Avenue. Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty Images

Police say they took 76 people into custody Saturday who blocked traffic near the Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan.

Trending News

The protest comes amid mounting criticism of companies working with ICE. Some of Microsoft’s own employees demanded last year that it cancel its data processing contract with ICE.

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Microsoft workers ‘listen’ to some translated Skype calls

Microsoft workers occasionally listen to real Skype conversations that have been processed by translation software, it has been revealed.

According to tech site Motherboard, some contractors for Microsoft review such conversations to check the quality of translations.

However, the fact that humans may listen in to calls is not explicitly stated in Skype’s terms and conditions.

Microsoft said it had users’ permission to collect and process their data.

Skype’s Translator service translates dialogue during live audio and video calls.

Motherboard said it obtained audio from translated Skype conversations in which users “spoke intimately to loved ones” and discussed personal matters, including weight loss and relationship problems.

The tech site also said it had evidence that human contractors could hear voice commands spoken to Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual voice-activated assistant.

“Microsoft gets customers’ permission before collecting and using their voice data,” a spokeswoman for the firm said in a statement.

“We also put in place several procedures designed to prioritise users’ privacy before sharing this data with our vendors, including de-identifying data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees, and requiring that vendors meet the high privacy standards set out in European law.”

The company’s privacy statement says data may be shared “with vendors working on our behalf” – but it does not explicitly state that this may include human workers besides, for example, artificial intelligence systems.

Recordings under review

The practice of using human contractors to assess recordings of customers using tech products has faced increasing scrutiny lately.

Last week, Apple and Google decided to suspend their use of human contractors for reviewing voice recordings made by the firms’ virtual assistants and smart speakers, including Apple’s Siri.

A few days later, Luxembourg’s data protection watchdog said that it had opened discussions with Amazon about how the firm processed voice recordings made of people using its smart assistant Alexa.

Microsoft’s lead supervisory authority on data protection within the EU is Ireland’s Data Protection Commission.

The BBC has asked the commission for comment.

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Pentagon: Major Amazon or Microsoft Jedi deal delayed

The Pentagon has signalled a delay to a decision on whether to award a lucrative cloud-computing contract to Amazon or Microsoft.

The two companies are the last ones in the running to provide artificial intelligence-based analysis and host classified military secrets among other services over a 10-year period.

The deal could be worth more than $ 10bn (£8.2bn).

The delay follows concerns raised by President Donald Trump last month.

He told reporters: “I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon.”

The president added that Oracle and IBM – two companies previously knocked out of the bidding process – had been among those raising concerns.

And he said he intended to ask for the matter to be looked at “very closely” – despite the fact that the president’s former spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, had said in 2018 that he was “not involved in the process”.

Last month, Republican Senator Marco Rubio also claimed the Department of Defense (DoD) had used “arbitrary criteria” to narrow down the field, which he said could “result in wasted taxpayer dollars”.

Mr Rubio had previously benefited from millions of dollars-worth of campaign support from Oracle’s chief Larry Ellison.

The contract was initially due to be awarded before the end of this month, and in a statement to the Politico news site. a DoD spokeswoman did not provide specifics about why the new Defense Secretary – who was appointed on 23 July – had decided to review the process.

“Secretary Esper is committed to ensuring our warfighters have the best capabilities, including artificial intelligence, to remain the most lethal force in the world, while safeguarding taxpayer dollars,” she said.

“Keeping his promise to members of Congress and the American public, Secretary Esper is looking at the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (Jedi) programme. No decision will be made on the programme until he has completed his examination.”

Dr Esper was previously the US Secretary of the Army, so would have been familiar with the Jedi contract before taking on the new role.

The DoD had previously signalled that it might also consider Google as a third alternative.

But the search giant dropped out of the process in October, saying that it “couldn’t be assured that [the work] would align with our AI principles”.

Neither Amazon nor Microsoft has commented.

Big money

As the world’s biggest provider of cloud-computing services, Amazon had been the favourite to win Jedi.

The company’s Amazon Web Services division secured a contract with the CIA in 2013 to allow the spy agency to offload work to its computer servers.

That success helped it gain other public-sector work and it now says that more than 2,000 government agencies use its cloud technologies.

Microsoft’s Azure division also provides cloud services to the US intelligence community, and it is the favourite to win a second Pentagon cloud-computing contract out for tender.

The Defense Enterprise Office Solutions (Deos) contract involves providing email, calendar, video-calling and other productivity tools to the US military and is expected to be worth about $ 8bn.

There had been speculation that the DoD might not want to award both Deos and Jedi to the same provider to avoid becoming over-reliant on a single company.

Complicated relationships

President Trump has repeatedly criticised Amazon and its chief, Jeff Bezos, in the past.

Mr Bezos has acknowledged that his ownership of the Washington Post – which is often critical of the current administration – has been a “complexifier”, but has said that the president is wrong to consider him an “enemy”.

Mr Bezos has, however, been clear that he believes Amazon should provide services to the US authorities, even if its causes controversy.

This has included supplying facial-recognition technologies to the police as well as pursuing the Jedi contract.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Mr Bezos told a conference in October 2018, following Google’s pull-out.

One factor that could act in Mr Bezos’s favour is that he has resisted pressure from some of Amazon’s own employees to drop the surveillance software firm Palantir as a client of Amazon Web Services because of its reported links to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Palantir’s co-founder is Peter Thiel – a billionaire tech investor who advises President Trump.

Mr Thiel has previously complimented both Mr Bezos and Amazon’s impact on the wider tech sector in public comments.

However, his view on Jedi is unknown.

Bloomberg reported last month that Mr Thiel met Mr Trump and Oracle’s co-chief executive, Safra Catz, at the White House last year when Oracle was still seen as a contender.

The news agency said the possibility of Amazon winning the Jedi contract was one topic discussed, but did not report the detail of what was said.

A a spokeswoman for Oracle told the BBC: “Thank you for reaching out. We decline comment.”

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Microsoft official says Iranian cyber activity has increased

Cyber activity originating in Iran and targeting entities across the United States “spiked” after the Trump administration announced its withdrawal from the nuclear deal last May, Tom Burt, Microsoft’s senior vice president of customer security and trust, said on Friday.

Speaking at an election security panel at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Burt said the company saw “an incredible increase, a spike in activity, once the United States announced it was withdrawing from the nuclear treaty.”

Burt specified that the Iran-based actors’ cyber activity was not necessarily politically focused and “largely” targeted oil and gas organizations.  

Trending News

Earlier in the week, Microsoft published a blog post that said it had notified nearly 10,000 of its customers – which included businesses and consumer email accounts – that they had been targeted by nation-state attacks that originated, in order of volume, from Iran, North Korea and Russia.

“While many of these attacks are unrelated to the democratic process, this data demonstrates the significant extent to which nation-states continue to rely on cyberattacks as a tool to gain intelligence, influence geopolitics or achieve other objectives,” the post said.

The post also announced the demonstration, at the Aspen Security Forum, of a free open-source software system called ElectionGuard that the company said was designed to enhance voting security.

In his Friday remarks, Burt also said Microsoft had seen a “significant increase in activity” from North Korea as nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington were ongoing. He added that while the company had seen some activity originating from China, “we don’t see them [being] as active” as other countries, by volume.  

In its blog post, Microsoft said it had issued 781 notifications to customers using its AccountGuard service, which warns political and “democracy-focused” organizations worldwide about targeted cyber attacks – and that 95% of those attacks targeted U.S.-based organizations that were closely associated with the electoral process.

The slight majority of those attacks, too, Burt said, were perpetrated by Iran-based actors, followed, by volume, by Russia-based actors. While the Iranian activity was “not necessarily in any way” associated with hacking democratic processes, Burt said, and instead focused on energy interests, the Russia-based efforts reflected the “same pattern of engagement” observed ahead of the 2016 and 2018 U.S. and European elections.

“Almost every significant election cycle since 2016 we’ve seen the initial effort being to infiltrate NGOs, academics and think tanks likely to be influential,” which could be part of preparing for a disinformation campaign, Burt said.

“What we would say from the data we’ve seen so far is that we are seeing the early stages of the same kind of pattern of activity by the same actors that we’ve seen before, and we should expect it to continue,” he said.

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Microsoft deletes massive face recognition database

Microsoft has deleted a massive database of 10 million images which was being used to train facial recognition systems, the Financial Times reports.

The database was released in 2016 and was built of online images of 100,000 well-known people.

The database is believed to have been used to train a system operated by police forces and the military.

The deletion comes after Microsoft called on US politicians to do a better job of regulating recognition systems.

Active use

Microsoft told the FT the database was no longer available, because the person who curated it had now left the company.

Last year Microsoft President Brad Smith asked the US Congress to take on the task of regulating the use of facial recognition systems because they had “broad societal ramifications and potential for abuse”.

More recently, Microsoft rejected a request from police in California to use its face-spotting systems in body cameras and cars.

The massive set of images, called the MSCeleb database, was compiled from images of celebrities found online.

The Megapixels project, which tracks face databases, said the “majority” of images were of American and British actors, but it added that it also included a lot of people who “must maintain an online presence for their professional lives”.

This meant that it included journalists, artists, musicians, activists, policy makers, writers and researchers.

Even though the data is no longer available from Microsoft, it is probably still being used by people who downloaded a copy.

“You can’t make a data set disappear,” Adam Harvey from the Megapixels site told Engadget. “Once you post it, and people download it, it exists on hard drives all over the world.”

In the UK, police forces have been criticised for trialling home-grown facial recognition systems that have proved to be bad at recognising people. One trial was wrong in 92% of the cases it flagged.

Big Brother Watch said the way facial recognition had “crept” on to the UK’s streets was “dangerously irresponsible”.

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Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo quizzed over subscriptions

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are being investigated in the UK for the way subscriptions to their online gaming services are renewed.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was “concerned” about whether the firms are acting legally.

The CMA will also look at the firms’ terms and conditions, as well as how they handle cancellations and refunds.

It is seeking testimony from customers about how they have been treated by the games companies.

Loyal service

The CMA said its investigation was at an “early stage” and it had not yet formed a view as to whether the companies have broken consumer protection law.

In a statement, Microsoft said: “We have received a notification from the Competition and Markets Authority and will be co-operating fully with their investigation.”

Nintendo and Sony have not yet responded to a BBC request for comment.

One key focus of the investigation was the widespread use of so-called “roll-over” contracts which automatically resubscribe customers at the end of a contract’s term.

“Roll-over contracts are becoming more and more commonplace and it’s essential that they work well for customers,” said CMA boss Andrea Coscelli in a statement.

Mr Coscelli added that the CMA wanted to be sure that customers were being treated fairly when contracts are automatically renewed.

He added that the investigation was part of work the CMA was doing in response to a “super-complaint” by Citizens Advice about what has become known as the “loyalty penalty”.

This can affect customers who stick with a brand for a long time, not only in gaming, because of costly exit fees or lengthy and difficult exit processes.

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