BBC Watchdog Feature: Xbox Console Bans

Gamers who have lost out with Xbox
Microsoft's Xbox was the biggest selling console in the UK last year, and millions of users have signed up to the Xbox Live service. It allows you to download new games and play online against friends.

 

But a growing number of people have discovered that Microsoft has banned them. Permanently. They won't tell you why, and they won't let you appeal.

 


Over the past few years, scores of Xbox users have told us that their consoles have been banned from connecting online. Microsoft claims that these users violated their terms of use with no further explanation given and no appeal possible.
 

The bans have been issued by Microsoft's mysterious "enforcement team" whose job is to stop Xbox users from breaking the rules, like tampering with the console and committing online fraud. But the Watchdog viewers that contacted us insisted that they've done nothing wrong.
 

So what exactly has Microsoft been saying to customers? Posing as the parent of an Xbox Live user whose console had been disconnected, we called customer services three times. Each time they were very quick to blame us for the ban.
 

They told us there has to be a reason for the ban and suggested we speak to our son. They also said that there is no way to appeal the ban, and the only way we could connect online again would be to buy a new console. It was even suggested that we could buy a new console for Christmas.
 

When we suggested that Microsoft themselves could have got it wrong we were told: "I can assure you sir, we have lots and lots of calls about bans but in 100% of cases the ban team is really thorough and meticulous and they're always right."
 

So, according to Microsoft they are infallible and it's certainly the impression they've been giving to consumers. We, of course, were less sure so we called them again, this time as Watchdog.
 

As it turned out, they were wrong. Just three hours after our call, Microsoft put up a statement on their website admitting that their infallible team had made a mistake and there had been a software glitch.
 

As a result of this they reversed some of the bans and gave affected users 3 months' free Xbox Live subscription, plus 1600 Microsoft points. This is around £20 in compensation.
 

Sadly, this came too late for those users that went out and bought a replacement Xbox to get around the ban. And parents like Jo Stuart-Matthews whose 10-year old son Ben was disconnected last month; she didn't want to pay Microsoft any more money and so decided to buy her son a Playstation 3 to get him back online, spending just under £170.
 

When her ban was reversed following Microsoft's announcement, she was furious and feels the compensation offered does not make up for the money she has lost by purchasing a new console.

So, what are Microsoft going to do?


A Microsoft Spokesperson said:

"As part of Microsoft's commitment to combat piracy and support safer and more secure gameplay, the LIVE Policy and Enforcement team regularly bans consoles from Xbox LIVE that have been modified in order to play pirated disks, violating the Xbox LIVE Terms of Use and Code of Conduct. Recently it was brought to our attention by a number of customers that the ban for their individual consoles may not be valid. After an initial investigation we have identified a handful of banned consoles that were in-fact unmodified or tampered with. We deeply regret the inconvenience this may have caused for our loyal members of Xbox LIVE and while the investigation into this error is ongoing, we are working directly with these customers to provide an immediate resolution to the error.

Customers who believe they have been affected by this error are encouraged to contact us at www.xbox.com/support/contact."


1. Why does Xbox think it is appropriate to ban consoles from Xbox LIVE owned by paying customers without giving these customers full and detailed information about why this has happened, therefore refusing customers the opportunity to investigate?

We apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused for our loyal members of Xbox LIVE. Microsoft bans modified consoles from Xbox LIVE as part of our ongoing policy to combat piracy and support safer and more secure gameplay. We do not share specific details of why a modified console has been banned due to the security issues involved and our responsibility to protect from further breaches. Recent cases of incorrect bans being administered has highlighted a need to reassess this process in some cases and provide a more transparent way for our valued customers to talk to us about suspensions of their console where relevant.


2. Why are no reasons given for consoles being banned when customers contact Xbox and Microsoft, and why are customers not given the right to appeal?

We take vigorous action against illegal activity related to our products and services. Information about specific modifications can be used by a minority of people who are determined to violate terms of use and for this reason we cannot give specific details.


3. How many complaints has Microsoft received about this issue in the past three months?

While we don't comment on exact numbers of complaints, this issue has only affected a small handful of our UK customers.


4. Following the message posted by Microsoft on Friday evening (23 September), how many console bans have now been reversed by Microsoft? Why has this reversal been issued, and why was the announcement made at that time?

We can confirm that all UK customers issued with an invalid console ban between August 29th and September 9th have been reinstated to the Xbox LIVE service. These reversals were made when it became apparent that a small number of consoles banned from Xbox LIVE had not been modified and out of an abundance of caution we reversed the full ban. A scheduled announcement was made on Friday September 23rd to reflect this.


5. How does Microsoft plan to deal with those customers who have followed the advice of customer services and purchased a new console when they may now have the bans reversed?

Customers who received an invalid console ban between August 29th and September 9th and who subsequently purchased a new Xbox360 following conversations with Customer Support on or before September 23rd will be reimbursed for the price of the new console. This will be dependent upon: (i) Proof of purchase (made during the period August 29th - September 23rd); and (ii) testing of their old console to verify the validity of the ban. UK Customers affected by this issue should call Xbox UK Customer Support on 0800 587 1102 for more information and assistance.


6. Will customers not affected by this ban reversal be given the opportunity to appeal or discuss their cases further with Microsoft or Xbox?

Microsoft commits to pursuing a more transparent process for customers to talk to us about suspension of their console in some cases, however at present there are no plans to allow customers with modified consoles to discuss valid bans.

Link to Story and Video Report = http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2011/09/xbox_console.html

 

Discussion Info


Last updated July 4, 2018 Views 97 Applies to:

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we did the same thing here you know lol except you copy pasted the online article didn't you ?

The feature was a waste of time. It was pretty much a promo piece on how penitent Microsoft are.

No investigation into the fact that the unbanned console's still make it so a person's profile can not be used on any other console than the unbanned machine. Meaning if they want to game on a friend's house they have to use the recovery process instead of just putting it on a USB stick.

@VoteDC  Yep the feature was weak because it focused on Children being upset, and nothing about why MS have no appeal process for console bans so without a tv company phoning them up, there is no way for the normal owner to appeal or question a ban.

[quote user="voteDC"]

The feature was a waste of time. It was pretty much a promo piece on how penitent Microsoft are.

No investigation into the fact that the unbanned console's still make it so a person's profile can not be used on any other console than the unbanned machine. Meaning if they want to game on a friend's house they have to use the recovery process instead of just putting it on a USB stick.

[/quote]

 Well you could always contact watchdog and raise it as a follow up issue, its watchdog after all its only what in the past week the whole corruption issue has been discovered.

Lol. Reading Cokneys post, i chuckled at the wording that suggests Microsoft admitted they were wrong 3 hours after Watchdog rang as Watchdog.

As if.

[quote user="hobblejp"]Well you could always contact watchdog and raise it as a follow up issue, its watchdog after all its only what in the past week the whole corruption issue has been discovered.[/quote]I have contacted them about it, at the beginning of the week in fact.

The corruption issue has been a part of bans since at least the USB update, so it's not a new thing. Surely checking on this should have been the first thing Microsoft did and I'm shocked that such a thing wasn't looked into.

[quote user="Cokney Charmer"]

@VoteDC  Yep the feature was weak because it focused on Children being upset, and nothing about why MS have no appeal process for console bans so without a tv company phoning them up, there is no way for the normal owner to appeal or question a ban.

[/quote]

There is an appeal process its just so few people know about it seemingly know about it, you have to request it and you put your account on the line, so if they still find you guilty you lose your gamertag and account too.

Aye this would of been a lot more plausible if they admitted they were at fault before watchdog had contacted them.it scares me to think the amount if time and money I put into xbox live that my console and account can just be taken away chin me like that without any explanation or means of appeal

So Watchdog called them and lied about a ban that never actually happened?

 

Or did they actually manage to get an account that was erroneously banned?

 

Az

I would assume that they used a real account since the support agent could check almost instantly if such an account really existed.

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