Customer pays $50 for a SILVER account?

The Consumerist is always a handy little site to check if you want to see what certain companies try and get away with, and every now and then you’ll see some game-related chicanery pop up. Such is the case today, as one unfortunate customer explains how he was talked into forking over a year’s Gold subscription for the privilege of having a free Silver account.

ForceTrainer recently ran into problems when he forgot to update his credit card information. Despite reminders from Microsoft, the absent-minded gamer failed to update the info and his access to Xbox Live was terminated. While not a big deal to the former XBL member, he still wanted access to his DLC so finally decided to update his information and get a Silver account. However, he soon ran into problems after Microsoft made him pay a full year’s subscription to settle the month or two of Xbox Live Gold that was outstanding.

He verified that my billing information was updated, and he told me that I would be charged $49.99 because I had an owing balance on my account. While all I wanted to do was convert to a Silver account (hopefully for no charges), I was half expecting this since my account had technically lapsed in June. I asked if it was possible to just pro-rate the two months that I was given service after my account lapsed, and I was told because I’m an annual member that wouldn’t happen. Alright, fine, no big deal – it’s just $50.

Just fifty bucks indeed, but it was certainly a big deal when he found out that the $50 was just to get reconnected to the Internet via his 360. After being informed that the money was purely to bring his account into balance and that he was not due the rest of the year’s Gold membership, needless to say that things got very messy. More after the jump.

The charge was put through and I figured all was set. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

Me: Alright, so my account is settled. Since my account lapsed in June I’m assuming I should have about 10 months left of Xbox Live Gold service, right?

Rep: No.

Me: Ummm… what do you mean no? When I paid the $50 I was paying for service from June 2008 to June 2009. I understand that I won’t get a full year of service from today, but how come you’re telling me I’m not going to get Gold service at all?

Rep: By paying the $50 you settled your account. Your account has been reactivated as a Silver account.

Me: Okay, I understand that my account is now settled, but I just paid for 12 months of service. If you date that from June 2008 I should have a Gold account until June 2009.

Rep: No. When you paid the $50 that was just to settle the account and bring it current. Your account was almost sent to collections, so your payment stopped the process.

Me (Getting very pissed off right now): Okay, so what you’re telling me is that I just paid $50 so you wouldn’t send me to collections? With Xbox Live service you PRE-PAY for the service! If I’m paying you $50 I just PRE-PAID for services that you owe me. Now you’re telling me all I did was stop you from sending me to collections?

Rep: Yes. However, now that your account is settled you can go ahead and purchase a Gold account if you want.

Me (To the point of ripping my hair out): So what you’re telling me is that I just paid you $50, and if I want to get a Gold level account I will need to pay again for it even though I just paid you $50?!?

Rep: That would be correct sir.

Me (Trying not to yell at the guy so I can ask pertinent questions): Okay, that makes no sense, but let’s continue. Can you tell me exactly what I was charged for? Was the $50 I just spent for Xbox Live Gold service, collections fees, account reactivation… what?

Rep: The charge will be for Xbox Live Gold service.

Me (Ready to rip his throat out through the phone): You just said that I was being charged for Xbox Live Gold service. If that’s the case then how come I am not getting the balance of the months?

Rep: Because that charge was to bring your account current.

Brutal, eh? I’m sure Microsoft has some small print somewhere that allows them to do this, and I’m sure that it wouldn’t have happened if ForceTrainer had just remembered to update his information. Still, it goes to show how sneaky Microsoft can be and how you can get screwed if you don’t keep your wits about you. 

James Stephanie Sterling