The Average Gamer

Why It’s Important Not To Add Your Credit Card On Xbox Live

Way back in October last year I was playing Team Fortress 2 quite a bit. Somehow, even though I don’t actually know my own gamerscore, it seemed to make sense to unlock the achievements on my own gamertag, instead of playing on someone else’s. So… I duly signed up for a monthly-paid Gold Membership and added my Visa debit card details.

One month later, my boyfriend and his flatmate are sick of me sitting on their couch playing TF2 all the time. Also, Mass Effect was released so I got my own Xbox 360 and flew off on the SS Normandy. In the meantime, I had to get a new debit card because the UK banks have moved away from the wish-it-was-two-factor authentication to actual two-factor authentication. I ordered my new debit card and cancelled my Xbox-Live-known card even though it doesn’t technically expire until September 2008.

There isn’t actually an option to move back to Silver membership from Gold in the Xbox 360 interface. I figured that hey, I can’t use the card in shops any more (I actually tried this), so next time Microsoft try to bill me for the Gold Membership, the charge will get rejected and they’ll downgrade me to a Silver. No problem. My home internet connection is too crappy to play TF2 online anyway.

For Christmas, TheFluffyFist kindly gets me a 12 month subscription card to Xbox Live so that when I do resume playing TF2 I don’t have to give them my new card details and be unable to remove the card info later.

In January, I notice in passing that I still appear to have a Gold membership. “Hmm. That’s strange” I say, but since my two-factor authentication device isn’t in the building, I can’t check my accounts. I forget about it.

Fast forward two months to tonight – I finally got around to looking at my bank statements in detail. Right there in the middle of the month:

“Payment to Microsoft Axbox [sic] Luxembourg This transaction was for GBP 4.99 at exch rate 1.000”


Question 1:

How the hell can they continue charging me every month, even though this card was cancelled in November? I shall speak to my bank tomorrow.

Question 2

Does this mean I have to go through the obligatory 3-phone-call ritual and then wait for my non-valid card to be blacklisted before I can stop paying Microsoft for a service I don’t even use?


Finally, I’ve been reading Microsoft’s Privacy Statement, which contains the following extract:

“Personal information collected on Microsoft sites and services may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which Microsoft or its affiliates, subsidiaries or agents maintain facilities, and by using a Microsoft site or service you consent to any such transfer of information outside your country. Microsoft abides by the safe harbour framework as set forth by the US Department of Commerce regarding the collection, use and retention of data from the European Union.”

In other words, data submitted to Microsoft is NOT fully protected by the Data Protection Act (1998). If it were, under the core principle of not keeping information longer than is necessary, you would (probably) have the right to have your credit card details removed from payment methods after going through the multiple phone calls that it takes to persuade Microsoft that you no longer want a Gold membership. (Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer.)

Under the Safe Harbour Agreement there is some mention of having the right to delete information where it is inaccurate in Safe Harbour FAQ 8 – Access but… I don’t know how that is applied. Any ideas?