My son, aged 12, is a big fan of Xbox. Or maybe I should say was a fan of Xbox. He especially liked chatting and playing games with his friends using Xbox Live - until last week, that is, when he went to log on only to find that his account had been permanently banned. There was no prior warning. Needless to say, Microsoft are not his favourite company right now. And the more dealings I have - or try to have - with the supposed support staff, it must be said that neither am I.
I am not the kind of parent who believes that my child is a saint who can do no wrong. In fact, my first reaction, when he shared the news with me, was to ask him what on earth he had done that was bad enough to incur a lifetime ban. Actually, Xbox don't like referring to their bans as 'lifetime' - instead, they declare that a gamer is banned until 31st December 9999. What is the point of this? Is it for those who decide to have their bodies frozen and brought back to life at some point, ready and waiting to claim back their elusive Xbox Live account? Or might advances in medical science allow these young gamers to actually live that long?
Anyway, when my son first announced that he was banned, I initially believed that he must have committed a serious online misdemeanor and I was keen to get to the bottom of it. I was on the side of Xbox and assumed that the action taken must have been deserved. Now, however, I am extremely angry at a company who appear to have one of the worst customer care services I have ever encountered. It seems to me that Xbox are very happy to accept as much money as possible from gamers (my son has spent at least £200 on passes, points and games for this banned account) and not at all willing to discuss the matter when there is an issue. I will also point out that the money spent is lost when an account is permanently banned - and Xbox Support will refuse to give it back to you.
So What Crime Had My Son Committed?
The message that my son received informing him of the ban did not specify at all as to what had caused this action to be taken. He told me that he thought he knew what he'd done - the day before he had invited other people to join his team, telling them that he could 'get them to the highest level' if they did so. Apparently, this is called 'modifying' the game - my son refers to it as 'modding'. Modifying the game is obviously cheating - you can be banned for it and rightly so. It is against Xbox Live's Code of Conduct.
My son, however, is a 12 year old child who has no knowledge of how to modify a game and had no intention of doing so. Basically, he was joking - in a rather childish, pointless kind of way. He did not attempt to modify the game. He did not help anyone reach a higher level, and did not even try to. He did not attempt to extract personal information from other players, nor did he ask for any kind of payment, in Xbox points or otherwise. He did not threaten them. What he did do was act, for a brief moment, in an immature manner without properly thinking - and how many children have done that? Just to make it clear, all that actually did happen was that my son said something silly, and some people that he didn't know ended up playing a game alongside him. That was it.
I decided I wanted to hear from Xbox Live themselves as to what had caused my son to lose his account. I feel that it is a reasonable course of action, bearing in mind that they now have, in my eyes, at least £200 of our money (probably more). Calling Xbox Support, however, is a joke - especially when you want to talk about banned accounts. After waiting an extremely long time for someone to answer the phone, the person on the other end informed me that they have absolutely no connection with the admin staff who deal with the banning of accounts. Can I have another number then, so that I can discuss it with the right person? No, these people don't have phones. That is ridiculous, of course - the truth is that want to remain as distanced as possible from irate people who have lost all their money.
I was directed, by the polite but helpless call centre staff member, to the Xbox Live Support Forum. This was after a very long and drawn out procedure accessing my son's banned account, mainly caused by me not knowing the credit card number that had once been associated with it when I bought my son Minecraft over a year ago. The staff member wanted me to recite the last four numbers on the card. I explained that I couldn't, because I had lost that card long ago and had to cancel it and apply for a new one from the bank. Eventually, he managed to overlook the issue and move on.
Back to the Support Forum. Once on the forum, if you scroll down to 15, you will arrive at the Live Accounts Suspended thread. People who have had their accounts banned, whether permanently or temporarily, can post questions in this thread asking for the reason why to be revealed to them. Personally, I can't understand why this information shouldn't be offered within the initial email. But anyway, we posted in the forum on the advice of the support staff member. Then we had to wait for a reply - which took a few days. The reply indicated that the ban might be related to 'modifying' or 'cheating'. Just as my son had assumed. Except that he did not actually modify anything - he only talked about it.
Anyone who expects to receive a decent answer on the Suspended Accounts Thread is going to be sorely disappointed. The replies are supposed to a genuine human response - but in fact they read like a vague and general automated message. I think it is possible that a real live human does reply, but it is a human with no real freedom of communication and one who reveals as little real information as possible. So, we got a vague answer but there was no discussion. And considering this company still had £200 of our money, I wasn't very happy with such a robotic response.
Unhappy with the response, I called Xbox Support again. The more I thought about the situation, the more I felt that Xbox could not justify banning an account and keeping £200 of other people's money just because a 12 year old said 'join my team and I will make you the highest level' without realising the consequences. This money was not even my son's, of course, but given to him by family members - myself and his Dad, and caring grandparents who are not rich but like to treat the children. It is money down the drain now. They might as well have just flushed it away.
Xbox Support were no more helpful than the first time I had contacted them. They tried to point me back towards the forum, with the explanation that they were unconnected to these elusive people with the almighty powers. Talking on the phone gets you absolutely nowhere with Xbox, unless you are looking to discuss something other than banned accounts. The advice this time was to go back on the forum, post a detailed explanation of the reasons why I was not happy and include my own email address (because I had logged in with my son's alternate, inactive account before) so that I could build a parent/staff dialogue. I decided that it was a suitable way forward, so I agreed to do that.
I spent a period of time outlining my queries in the Support Forum. Posts are not made public until they are moderated, and even then replies are often privately emailed rather than accessible on the forum. I was polite but concise in the thread, explaining that my son might have said something stupid, but that he had not actually attempted to modify any games and that there was no evidence of this, or intention to do so. I indicated that I either wanted the account reinstated, a refund of the money spent, or a transfer of all of the data lost onto my son's alternate account. I requested that if this was not possible then I would like to be put in touch with someone who could help, or given details of the official complaints procedure so that I could take the matter further.
My long forum post was in vain. All I received was a response (emailed to my son, not to myself as requested) explaining that the forum thread did not deal with people who wanted to discuss any details of banned accounts. Neither was my request for details of the complaints procedure taken notice of. I was given no further advice on how to communicate with Xbox regarding the issue. The only information given was that the ban would still stand. It did not even provide details of his exact offence, we only had our own conclusions to go on. By this point in time, I was absolutely fuming, since I have never before encountered an organisation who seek to withdraw facilities or think that they can forfeit your money without properly explaining why. Even if you acquire a parking ticket, a photo of your car is provided showing that you parked incorrectly. Xbox, however, seem to be content to keep your money whilst offering no such explanation or proof of wrong-doing.
I think it is the lack of communication and willingness to provide details backing up the permanent suspension that angers me the most. Part of me wonders whether this is even a legal procedure. After being referred to the Xbox Live Code of Conduct, I read through it and it clearly does state that cheating/modifying the game is a breach of the terms of condition. Yet, it does not indicate that merely talking about it breaches the rules. If there is no actual evidence of an attempt to modify the game, can money legally be forfeited? This is something that I would like to discuss with the unattainable Gods of Xbox, should I ever be given the chance.
I am not an impolite person on the phone, even when I am angered. I am perfectly capable of speaking calmly and in an adult manner, even to Xbox Live staff. I am also willing to discuss any other wrong-doing that my son may have participated in, just in case I do not have the complete story. When a company holds onto £200 of my family's money and yet will not enter a discussion as to exactly why, I am inclined to view this as unacceptable. I feel that it is my right as a customer to be able to talk with the appropriate person. If Xbox is such a large company that it cannot cope with the influx of calls and issues presented, then perhaps it should not be so keen to persuade gamers (including children) to part with money in exchange for Xbox Live Points - in addition to the £40+ price tag for most of their games.
Following my failed final forum post, I had no choice but to call the useless Support Team again. I explained that I was not happy with their response so far and that I wanted to be given the phone number or email address of the appropriate person with whom I can discuss the matter. I was informed that this is not possible and that no such person exists. I indicated that there must be a manager or someone who can be contacted, but was again told that no, actually there isn't. The staff member on the phone kept reiterating that they (the Support Staff) were not connected to the moderators who deal with banned accounts. Who is, then, I wanted to know. There is only the forum, was my reply. I hinted that it is not possible that a business can have no contactable people with which to discuss problems. No, there is no way to contact them other than the forum, I was told yet again. I asked the staff member whether he thought that it was justifiable to hold onto £200 of our money because my 12 year old child said one silly thing. He said he thought it was, but understood where I was coming from. 'We get this sort of thing all the time,' was all he offered. I then asked for details of the official complaints procedure and was told there wasn't one. My reply was that there must be one, every large company has a complaints procedure. 'You will have to write a letter to Xbox Microsoft Reading,' I was advised. Apparently I can't phone or email. I must write a good, old fashioned letter. Finally, after two forum posts (plus an unanswered one that my son sent) and three phone calls, I finally have the information that I must write a letter and that it will definitely be replied to. Judging by Xbox's response so far, I do not hold out much hope of a positive reply.
Strangely, despite my son's terrible crime, it is quite acceptable for him to hold alternative Xbox Live accounts. He already has two, it is just that all of his gameplay (and everything that we spent money on) is only accessible via the banned account. Surely, if he was such a danger to the Xbox community, he would not be welcome at all? Or are Xbox secretly happy for him (and the thousands of others that surely end up banned) to spend obscene amounts of money starting up again? My son has already asked me to purchase Xbox Live for one of his other accounts. Strangely, I said 'no'.
KnownGamer on June 08, 2016:
Technically once you spend money, (whatever currency), it isn't your money anymore. It then becomes that company's money, with which you have no control. Also Microsoft has high amounts of security you can use to protect your account from unknown users hacking it. And of course if your permanently banned, make a new email and account.
Justin Xie on February 13, 2015:
Get him a PS4. Sony does not do stupid things like that.
Vicki on January 28, 2015:
Yeah well get this. My boyfriend has had his account for four years, had over 61k in gamerscore, has season passes, DLC and numerious games downloaded from the market place. Signed up for the Ambassador's program and the enforcement united program (both of which are meant for helping people, and getting the cheaters off of Xbox live.) Has been apart of those for quite some time. Then randomly today at about 10pm he goes to play a game after already being signed in for four hours prior to that only to have a thing pop up on the screen saying that his xbox live account has been suspended until the year 9999. All this for supposedly impersonating an ambassador/moderator. Yet, he's signed up on all those things on their official website.. So now we have to sit and wait and try to figure out how to reverse this because he wasn't impersonating anything. And what pisses me off even more is that all the stuff I've bought, has cost me probably about five grand. With all the games I've bought, all the DLC, Season passes, Xbox arcade games, extra little packs just so he could play the games.. Not to mention all the things that came with the games, got used as codes only to be taken with the account itself, and we all know that once a code is used, it's gone. You can't use it again.
Microsoft is horrible when it comes to dealing with their customers. They really need to re-evaluate how they deal with the people who were unfairly banned or suspended.
A Mad Mom on October 31, 2014:
This just happened to my son. Rather than send him an automated message telling him what he MAY have done. I would like to know exactly what he did, considering they had no problem taking and keeping my money. I'm sorry, but I've watched and heard how people online play and talk on these games, and if they were banning accounts for legitimate reasons, there would not be one person left online to play their games. Everyone uses bad language/looks for glitches or does something wrong that they may not even know they're doing). A lifetime ban is ridiculous. I paid almost 500. for my son's limited edition Xbox and now he can't even use it. Sounds more like a scam to me. Look at all the money they are pocketing by banning all these account. Especially if it's accounts of people who have spent A lot of money. Then you've got people here telling you what your kids do and don't know. My child didn't pay the money, my working husband did. I didn't AGREE to ANY terms whatsoever. AND, I can't help but sit here and laugh at the person who spends his whole day online just reporting people who he thinks may be cheating, but could quite possibly just be better than him. Some people need to just grow up, get offline and get a life and let the kids have some fun. We paid for it, for goodness sake. Does it sound like I'm mad? YES! THIS TRULY SOUNDS LIKE A SCAM TO ME.
Shinzuu Katame from Maine, USA on June 09, 2014:
Polly, when you (or your son) accepted the terms and conditions, you already gave them permission to terminate account online access without any disclosure or details at the discretion of Microsoft.
Polly C (author) from UK on June 09, 2014:
@Kev - you're right, it doesn't seem legal. Other businesses are not allowed to conduct themselves in this way, so why do Microsoft get away with it?! It is an over-the-top reaction which resulted in the loss of a lot of money. But then, Microsoft are about nothing but money - as I am now realising when my son wants to buy Fifa points almost every day, for a game that already cost a lot to begin with!
Polly C (author) from UK on June 09, 2014:
@marc - Exactly! That is precisely what the issue is. If I get a parking ticket they have to show me a photo of the illegal parking and explain exactly what the problem was. With Microsoft, you are left in the dark and it is very difficult to contact them, or to contact the right people.
Polly C (author) from UK on June 09, 2014:
@shelly - I didn't succeed and gave up. This post is quite old now - after it happened my son decided he hated xbox and microsoft and so sold his console! He built his own pc instead, using birthday money and money from the xbox. However, a few months later he missed the xbox because he wasn't able to play with his friends. Crazily, he ended up getting another one, exactly the same as the one he sold. This time, there have been no problems with xbox live - probably because he knows what can happen and is being incredibly careful, I suspect. Still, I am still angry over the incident when I think about it, mainly because of their refusal to explain exactly what the problem was and the fact that they still have our money!
Shinzuu Katame from Maine, USA on June 06, 2014:
Marc, it is through the acceptance of the Terms and Conditions that Microsoft is allowed to ban the system as they see fit with or without notification to the user/owner.
Shelly, read 2 replies up. I've explained a lot of what's been going on over the last couple years in child gaming. It'll explain enough for you.
shelly on June 06, 2014:
hi polly the same thing has just happened to my twelve year old son and he says he doesn't no wat he has done. Been on the phone there useless been on the forum and that's just as as bad is there anyway he can get his bann lifted
Marc on June 03, 2014:
Surely true but why can't msoft not provide the evidence in clear when sending out the Banned notice???
Shinzuu Katame from Maine, USA on March 19, 2014:
Couple things that I have for this thread. Number 1, I've said it for many years, and proof has been out there in open view, but it needs repeating. Microsoft does NOT care about the consumer. When it comes to the gaming world, it's all about selling the name.
Also, you may not know this, but your child knows more about modding than he lets you think. Hacking games and systems are so simplistic and easy these days, 80% of players that cheat in games for the last 5 years are under the age of 13. You merely plug 1 little device into the system for a few minutes, and you will have just cheated in a game.
And Kev, you have to take into account that all gaming communities have strict guidelines and zero tolerance for people who cheat or attempt to do so. It is the responsibility of the one who accepts terms and conditions, or the parent/guardian thereof to make sure that the player abides by what was agreed upon. It is stated in the fine-print that if agreed upon, you accept the conditions of any misconduct, including perma-bans.
Many children in the gaming world end up wasting plenty of their parents' hard-earned money just so they can cheat in games, completely defeating the purpose of buying them. In November of 2013 alone, at the release of Call of Duty: Ghosts, well over 15,000 players had their accounts wiped and were permanently IP banned from playing the game, meaning access to the game online through their homes were permanently banned (making multiple accounts pointless), because they hacked their accounts to unlock everything without earning it. And of all those bans, roughly 90% had purchased the Prestige Edition, which cost $120.
Between 2009 and 2012, modifying systems were rampant. Over 500,000 systems, both Xbox and Playstations were permanently system-lock/banned from ever playing online due to modifying or hacking. Unfortunately, in the world's eyes, your son's incident was merely another statistic. My condolences to your losses in this event, but it is not, by far, uncommon, and you're not the first person whose eyes were also clouded by their child.
Kev on March 05, 2014:
The last 2 comments seem to miss the whole point. A lifetime ban is over the top, especially when they have your money & then offer no real explanation or a real person you can talk to about it. It's a terrible way to do business.... It doesn't even seem legal.
jas on January 30, 2014:
You do realise that your son does know more about modding than you say. I know many close gamers who I constantly report for modding(minecraft, cod black ops 2, gta5) I of course don't tell them but only am curious when action will be tooken against them.2 months go by and notin. Yet the writer actually believes his son, that's very funny because an incident like that is only an misdermeanor. Hes obviously screwed up the mod and the Xbox systems caught it and automatically banned him(that explains why it occurred so instantly). I know many people who have done this and I have little sympathy for cheaters, plus I can't believe the kid wont just own up to it. It is seld evident that hes a novice modder who tried to modd by plugging in a thumb drive and edit system files. Sad article...
Mr-XyZ from Zutendaal on January 24, 2014:
Oh come one, nr. 1. Your kids are probably playing games online they shouldn't be playing. The guy letting his six yeard old daughter play BO2, yeah great job at that. 2. You need to be at least 13 years old to be active in an online environment. US law and applied by companies bor servers based in the US. 3.Your kid prob did it, he tells you no but he prob did. Enough videos on youtube of trolls catching kids doing this stuff. 4. I can't believe what'w wrong with you all, either you all are serious trolls, naïve to the bone or just plain ignorant but think before you let your kid go online. They don't belong in online games or even with a profile on Xlive. Seriously, use your head.
dizzyblond on January 20, 2014:
Well here we go, my sons been banned until he is 82!!! Really and how is he supposed to play it then when he may be either blind or dead. After trying to speak to someone on X Box and get told to go on the forum which is no good, we are at a loss as to why his account hatchery banned and all the money in his account has been lost and it's a lot of money!! Also my second sons account has been lost and they too can not find what has happened so he has lost all his points and money too!!
Can not believe that you can ring Virgin and BT and get problem solved by X Box No!!!
So what are we people supposed to do who have spent thousands on 2 accounts to only lose all data, just take it in the chin and say ooh Well I don't think so. There must be a number or something who can sort all this out? PlayStation 4 here we come!!!
Polly C (author) from UK on August 21, 2013:
Hi taven2007- yes, the initial messages are automated, I'm sure. As I said in the article, I really do think XBox are out of order - not so much because people get banned, but because 'real people' are virtually impossible to contact to discuss the matter with, and also because no prior warning is given. Even if a 'rule' has been broken, surely in a minor case a lifetime ban is ridiculously over the top! After all, this is a company that takes a lot of money of its customers, even after the initial outlay of the game - just blocking accounts and effectively stealing money should surely not be acceptable? Many children play XBox Live and have no idea that the tiniest misdemeanors, often unintentional, can lose them their whole account.
To answer your question, no, I didn't get it sorted and I stopped pursuing it. My son was 13 a short while ago and had his heart set on saving all his birthday money and other money he had so that he could buy parts and build his own pc. He actually decided to sell his Xbox to have more money for better parts. Ironically, I tried to persuade him to hang onto it, because he used to spend so much time talking to his friends via it. However, he said he didn't like Xbox anymore and parted company with it. Now he plays the same games on the pc and wants a Playstation 4 as well - but no longer an Xbox.
taven2007 on August 21, 2013:
Something needs to be done with xbox.
I have had an account since May 2010 and you can just imagine the amount of money spent on the account.
I kept getting signed in and out of my account saying I was signed into another console, so I called on Aug 9th and talked to support about my account and I also had issues adding my daughter to my family pack.
Yesterday I was playing a game and boom I was kicked off live and told I am baned until 12/31/9999 same for my daughters account.
I was giving a what seams like an automated reply.
I am not so upset over my daughters account as I just added it to gold but I want to know what happened something must have happened while my account was compromised.
So I emailed the team back to ask them for more information and if they could see locations I was logged into that perhaps who was in my account done something, I feel they should notify you and see what is going on rather than a permanent ban, I know I have done no such cheating and my daughter is 6 she is not even sure at all.
I do recall her telling me about a week ago she was banned from playing black ops 2 I thought nothing of it I thought maybe someone got upset over her not having as much skill I never put a second thought into it.
Have you heard anything else on your case?
I am also scared to get another account because who is to say that what ever has happened this time will not happen again.