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.
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:
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?
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