At Long Last – A Result!

You may recall that I’ve been trying for some time to get Microsoft to correct some false data that they’ve been holding on me. My Microsoft account for their online stores (the Zune/Xbox Live/Windows Phone service account) states that I live in the US, and not The Netherlands. It’s not possible for the owner of the personal data held in these service accounts to change this, so I’ve been asking Microsoft since December 2010 to either change it on my behalf, or delete the account so that I can create a new one with the correct data.

The answer (stated in both Microsoft’s Support Forums and by their online Customer Support Teams) has always been that neither of these two options are possible.

The only option that has ever been offered is to create a new Windows Live ID (WLID) and then use this to create a new service account that is linked to the new Windows Live ID. This has never been an attractive option to me, because it means I would end up with multiple online identities (the WLIDs), and multiple service accounts – at least one of which would still be holding incorrect data.

It also seems to me that Microsoft could also be said to be contravening EU law on Data Protection, by refusing to correct false data that they hold on me.

After feeling like I was beating my head against a brick wall with Microsoft’s online Customer Support Teams about this, in March I wrote to Microsoft’s European Headquarters to complain.

I received a reply from Rob Warwick, XBOX EMEA Senior Advocacy Team, that had me scratching my head, because he was claiming that it was possible to delete my old service account (with the false information) and set up a new one that used my existing Windows Live ID. This directly contradicted everything stated in Microsoft’s Support Forums and by their Customer Support Teams, so I wrote and told him this. For good measure, I also wrote a formal complaint to Microsoft in The Netherlands, using text supplied by the Dutch Data Protection Authority, pointing out that, by holding incorrect data about me, Microsoft was in contravention of Dutch Law (artikel 36 van de Wet bescherming persoonsgegevens).

I don’t know which of the two complaints worked (see update below), but last week I received an email from a member of Microsoft’s Xbox Global Escalations team. He informed me that they are the highest point of escalation for Xbox across the whole of Europe and that my case had been passed up to them to handle and they now had full ownership.

He proposed creating a new temporary email address that would be attached to my old service account, thus freeing up my existing Windows Live ID to create a new service account (with the correct data). The old service account, and the temporary email address, would then be deleted by Microsoft. This is effectively what I had been asking for since December 2010.

I must say that I was a little surprised that I had to get it escalated so far. I’ve asked repeatedly on the Microsoft Answers forums for the old account to be deleted and a new account opened with the same WLID, and had two attempts via online chat with Customer Support to get this done. In all cases, I (and many other people who asked for the same thing) have been repeatedly told that this was not possible, but that I needed to create a new WLID and use it to create a new account. However, it appears, as the Xbox Global Escalations team have demonstrated, to be perfectly possible.

There are many people who are still in the same situation as I was, and equally frustrated. I find it strange that Microsoft should continue to frustrate and anger its customers, and not take steps to rectify the false information spread via its own Answers forum and Customer Support staff. I should add that the person in the Escalation Team that was dealing with my case has told me that he has now passed the case details regarding this to Microsoft’s Call Center feedback team to ensure the support staff are aware of this process and to ensure that moving forward this is an option for future customers. So hopefully things will improve.

So to summarise, if you find yourself in the same position as I was, and are being given the runaround by Microsoft’s Customer Support, just write a formal letter of complaint to Microsoft, and ask that it get escalated within Microsoft.

Update: I’m now pretty sure that it was writing to Microsoft’s European Headquarters, and the subsequent correspondence with Rob Warwick, that got my complaint escalated and successfully addressed. I say this because last week I was phoned by the Dutch Xbox Live support team. My letter to Microsoft in the Netherlands had been passed to them to deal with. The support team proceeded to tell me that the data could not be corrected, and that I’d need to create a new Windows Live ID and a new service account. The same old story, in other words. I took some delight in being able to tell them that in fact I had already got my data corrected, and I did not need to have a new Windows Live ID created. Clearly, the message from the Xbox Global Escalations team has not yet got out to customer support…

Update 11 October 2012: I’ve seen it being reported in several places on the web that Microsoft Customer Support is now able to migrate your account from one country to another. So it’s just taken five months for the message to get out from the Global Escalation team to Customer Support that migrations are possible…

Update 25 January 2014: I’m back battling with Microsoft again. This time it’s because of the same problem that has occurred with Martin’s WLID (now called Microsoft Account). It has a US billing account associated with it, despite the fact that we live in the Netherlands. Trying to get Microsoft to resolve the issue is proving frustrating, to say the least.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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42 Responses to At Long Last – A Result!

  1. markiz says:

    I am unclear about this, but here me out..

    Does the Xbox escalations team have an official central email address that could be made public? By you? 😀

    I reckon if more people complain directly, more hasty change of policy might be implemented.

    In any case, I’ll give it a try.

    Thanks so much for this, it’s the first example of someone who succeeded that i know of.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Markiz, I’d rather not simply give out an email address without permission, so what I’ll do is ask the member of the team with whom I’ve been in contact if there is a public email address that people can use to contact them with.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Markiz, I asked, but the reply is that there is no public email address for the Xbox Global Escalations Team. You’ll have to try and get it escalated via Customer Support, or, if that still doesn’t work, make a formal complaint in writing to Microsoft, and ask that it be escalated to the Team.

      • markiz says:

        Thanks for your time!

        Last night I was having a chat with an xbox live official support, and the women on the chat has escalated (what an awesome work BTW 🙂 my problem further. She even took my mobile phone number. I’m still not expecting anything, and not soon especially (she told me it would take weeks) but I got it started at least.

        I will also make a formal complaint directly to MS hq here in Croatia and in US probably, to increase my chances.

        Thanks again for offering a possible way to make this work.

        I will also update my topic on theverge.com when i get the time.

  2. Erik says:

    Could you please share you letter? This way I can fill in my details?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Erik, I based my letter to Microsoft Nederland on the example letters found on the http://www.mijnprivacy.nl site:

      Geachte mijnheer of mevrouw,

      Met verwijzing naar artikel 36 van de Wet bescherming persoonsgegevens, wil ik graag verbetering van mijn gegevens.

      Ik wens de volgende aanpassingen in mijn gegevens:

      Mijn Zune/Xbox Live account heeft “US” in plaats van “Nederland” als ‘country of residence’. Ik wil “Nederland” hebben, maar ik kan het niet veranderen.

      Mijn Zune/Xbox Live account is gekoppeled met mijn Windows Live ID: geoff.coupe@xxxxxxx(uniek ID: nnnnnnnn)

      Ik verzoek u mij binnen vier weken schriftelijk te berichten of dan wel in hoeverre u aan mijn verzoek voldoet.

      Als u aan mijn verzoek hebt voldaan, dient u zo spoedig mogelijk de aanpassingen door te geven aan derden aan wie u mijn gegevens hebt verstrekt.

      Als u met het oog op de vaststelling van mijn identiteit behoefte heeft aan een kopie van een rijbewijs, paspoort of ander identiteitsbewijs, ben ik bereid u deze te verstrekken.

      Ik wil u erop attenderen dat ik, indien u mijn verzoek niet inwilligt, genoodzaakt ben mij te wenden tot het College bescherming persoonsgegevens (CBP).

      Hoogachtend,

      G. Coupe

      • Erik says:

        Thank You. I didn’t receive an email about your reply. Maybe check your wordpress settings as this helps to keep this blog active. I can help with testing the settings of course.

        Below this reply I see:
        Notify me of follow-up comments via email.
        Notify me of new posts via email.

        Both of OFF by default. I can’t remember if I forgot this option the first time.

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Erik, you need to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” at the time when you make the comment. Otherwise, you don’t receive any follow-ups…

  3. markiz says:

    Geoff, this is an email i got yesterday from the escalations team, and now i’m confused, as it seems they are saying that WLID can be made free just by moving gamertag:

    “We’re sorry to hear you are experiencing difficulty changing the Windows LIVE ID associated with your gamertag. We understand you want to free your Windows LIVE ID so you can create a new account that corresponds with your country of residence (Croatia).

    As you indicated this can be done by associating the existing gamertag with a different Windows LIVE ID. We understand you received an error indicating the WLID can only be changed once every 30 days. Please understand certain restrictions apply to Windows LIVE ID changes:

    1. The WLID cannot be changed within 30 days of the GT creation

    2. The WLID cannot be changed within 30 days of the creation of the WLID.

    3. The WLID cannot be changed if the new WLID was associated with another Gamertag within the past 30 days.

    4. The WLID cannot be changed if the account was recovered to a new device in the past 30 days.

    To ensure the WLID can be changed after 30 days please login to accounts.live.com to update all information associated with both Windows Live IDs. Your existing Windows LIVE ID will be available for use with a new gamertag after a new Windows LIVE ID is associated with your existing gamertag. You can de-activate any undesired Windows LIVE IDs by logging into accounts.live.com, and closing the account. Have a great day.
    Regards,
    Xbox LIVE Escalations Team”

    What do you make of this?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Markiz, this is a way to use your existing WLID to create a new Xbox Live account (with its new Gamertag), and then eventually get rid of the old Xbox Live account. You use your Xbox to do this. Since I don’t have an Xbox, I couldn’t make use of this method for myself.

      It’s similar to the method that Microsoft used for me:

      1) Create a new, temporary email address and use it to create a new WLID
      2) Transfer the existing Zune/Xbox Live account to the new WLID
      3) Your existing WLID then becomes free to have a new Zune/Xbox Live account created for it
      4) The new WLID/temporary email address can be deleted, and then the old Zune/Xbox Live account will also be deleted.

      The main drawback of the method is that none of your existing Xbox profile, achievements, or licensed games will be migrated to the new Xbox Live account – you will be starting again from scratch. If this matters to you, then you should reply asking for a migration. However, be aware that Microsoft will not guarantee that any licensed content will be migrated. I think only your profile and your achievements can be moved across to the new Xbox Live account. See the post from pmdci on this thread:
      http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_8-security/why-are-there-such-seemingly-arbitrary-divisions/16e1187c-2829-4e15-92f3-3f3015fda3bb?page=2#last

      • markiz says:

        How confident are you that by using this method I will in fact get to the point where I am able to link a new gamertag to my existing liveID?

        I am willing to go as far as finding someone online with an Xbox who would do this for me. In fact, I have a separate thread on MS answers about the issue where a moderator has offered me his assistance in this.
        But, on my first chat with an xbox support technician, he/she told me that that would not actually free up my existing WLID. And that confuses me.

        BTW, I got an response from escalations team where they revert back to suggesting me to use a new WLID 😦

        I have contacted personal data protection agency of my country and am waiting for a reply. If they give me some concrete links to specific laws, do you think I should contact MS HQ, or HQ of the croatian branch of microsoft?

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Markiz, well, as I said, I don’t have an Xbox, so I cannot be 100% certain that using an Xbox to shuffle accounts between WLIDs will work. I’ve seen people on the Microsoft Answers forum say it does – but that’s just what I read.

          If the escalations team are still suggesting that you simply create a new WLID and a new account linked to it, then I think that you have to reply that this simply is not good enough. If you cannot/will not delete your original WLID (because it is used for your online identity elsewhere), then your original Zune/Xbox Live account remains active – holding incorrect data – and this is clearly contrary to EU law.

          First, reply to the escalations team saying that their response is not satisfactory. By all means, point them to my blog, because that shows that it is possible to continue using your existing WLID with a new account. What they have told you is not the full story.

          In parallel to that, when you have a response from your local Data Protection Authority, use that to follow up with Microsoft in Croatia. It doesn’t hurt to pursue multiple routes, as I found in my own case.

          Good luck.

          • markiz says:

            For future reference, I tried the Xbox method, but it can only be done once the WLID/gamertag you want to free has been on the console for 30 days at least. Since I do not own one, that’s a no go.

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  9. boma23 says:

    hi Geoff,
    Having moved from the UK a few years ago, I too am having an absolute nightmare getting anywhere with this same issue. It has been ongoing for over a year, and only when i decided to stick it up my own blog did I finally find yours, suggesting there is light at the end of the tunnel.
    I hope you don’t mind me posting a link, as I feel th more hits this issue gets, the better for all in the same situation.

    http://boma23.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/microsoft-live-ids-zune-id-and-nightmares-for-windows-phone-7-if-your-go-international-5/

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Hello Dominic – that’s quite a saga. It looks as though your case still hasn’t been escalated high enough within Microsoft – it’s still rattling around in Customer Support. I (and someone else I know of) got no result until my case was sent to the Xbox Global Escalation Team. Then it got resolved with their help. Note: I do NOT have an Xbox. The billing account that was causing the problem is shared between the Zune/Xbox Live and Windows Phone backend infrastructure used for billing and purchases.

      • boma23 says:

        Saga isn’t the word… if this was fantasy fiction I’d be Terry Pratchett! There’ll be another post with the latest XBox Support transcript going up later.

        The lack of XBox console availability is also my main issue. Annoyingly though, It’s stopping me from fully utilizing my WindowsPhone7 device (which as you say relies on Zune, in turn linked to the old UK Xbox Gamertag causing the issue). When it does finally get resolved, I fully expect to lose my entire app history as a result!

  10. Markiz says:

    I too have managed to solve my problems.
    I did it using an Xbox. Since I do not own one, and do not even know anyone who ownes one, I accepted help from a Microsoft answers moderator to do it for me.

    I changed my password and gave it him. He put it in his xbox. It did not work. I changed my password back. We waited a month and tired again, and this time it was successful.

    I did not have to hard reset or anything. When I opened marketplace, it asked me to choose region/locale (it offered me the correct one: croatia).

    Whenever an app gets an update now and i tap “update” an error is reported, but than i just uninstall and install the app again.

    So I can conform that the xbox method works.
    ———————————————————–

    I do have a new problem though. Marketplace only accepts INTERNATIONAL CREDIT CARDS. Meaning, TRUE visa, mastercard and american.
    I am a student. So I am unable to get those credit cards. All of my cards are DEBIT.

    I was shocked after I was unable to add a card because I was sure the issue was resolved.
    I started a chat on ms support website. During the chat session, agent even called me (from USA), so as to make things faster. And at the end he said it must be the issue with a card, because everything checks out on their side. I checked on my banks website, and sure enough, all the cards I have are debit.

    So I am still unable to purchase anything, but one of these days, when I finish up with college and get a job, I’ll be on the horse 🙂

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  12. Hello
    I have create a new email account and put that as my email address for the Zune account. What do i do then? I cant seem to follow how to change it… Please help 🙂

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Eugene, I’m not sure what you mean when you say you have “put that (your new mail address) as my email address for the Zune account”. When a Zune account is created, it uses the email address of your Windows Live ID, and that address can never be changed…

      So, you may have created another email address, but you can’t edit your Zune account to change to your new email address. The system doesn’t allow it.

      • Sorry to sound dumb but is there an actual way to change my country for my Zune account?

        • Geoff Coupe says:

          Eugene – as I wrote above:

          “So to summarise, if you find yourself in the same position as I was, and are being given the runaround by Microsoft’s Customer Support, just write a formal letter of complaint to Microsoft, and ask that it get escalated within Microsoft”.

          That’s the only actual way to get your country changed. You can’t do it yourself, and Customer Support will say they can’t do it. You have to get your request escalated within Microsoft so that it reaches the Xbox Global Escalations Team. They are the only ones who can get the country changed in your Zune/Xbox Live/Windows Phone account. And even there, what they are in fact doing is creating a new account, but linking it back to your original email/Windows Live ID, and then deleting the old account. So the effect is that your Zune account gets the correct country. Depending on what your old country and your new country are, you may get your Zune purchases migrated to the new account, but this is unlikely.

          • Trygve Hovland says:

            Hi,
            I’m a norwegian who got my first windows phone quite early so i deliberately chose UK as my country when I created my zune account to get access to marketplace apps. After a while norway got in the mix and marketplace opened up for us.
            So therefore I wanted to change my zune account country to be able to buy norwegian apps and have region based apps available to me.

            I have googled this issue for a long time and stumbled upon this webiste just a month ago. I first tried the xbox support and got nowhere. They told me this wasnt possible at all. (as you have already stated on this blog) Instead of writing a formal letter I found some employees in Microsoft Norway and sent a descibribing e-mail also refering to this blog.
            First I got an answer that they would look in to this for me and get back to me. After a couple of days I was told this wasnt possible.. I didn’t reply to this e-mail and a couple of days later I got a new e-mail telling me that a english speaking representative from the Xbox team would contact me by telephone the next few days.

            A couple of days later i got a call from a member of the xbox support team explaining my case and also refering to this blog and the person at the other end new of this blog and issue at hand. I asked me a few questions on what my needs where and to be sure of some issues that could occur and he changed my zune accont contry from UK to Norway.

            Success! 😀

            I have the name and e-mail address of this person but I’m not sure its the right thing to do to publish this information here.

            • Geoff Coupe says:

              Trygve, good to hear that you have also had success. But in answer to your question, please do not publish the name and email address of the Microsoft contact person here. It is private information.

            • boma23 says:

              Trygve, I would DEARLY like the contact information of the MS rep you spoke to (I promise to keep it private!). I have currently run out of options going forward – XBOX support refuse to escalate it, and MS Support say they can’t do anything as it’s an XBox issue!
              Your solution seems the best yet, as you had your current tag’s region changed to the correct location, meaning app history is retained.

              please email me boma23 ( at ) outlook.com

              Many Thanks,
              Dom

  13. Asbjørn says:

    Thank you for this post! I live in Denmark, but when I created my Live ID over ten years ago, I chose the US as country – for obvious reasons. Now, this is causing me no ends of trouble. Thank you for pointing out that Microsoft is in breach of EU law. Unfortunately, the Danish data protection agency (Datatilsynet) is not quite as proactive as the Dutch one. I have, however, sent Microsoft an e-mail asking for this change to be made – and threatening them with the relevant authorities if they don’t comply with the law (we have a similar provision in the Danish law on personal information). I hate to take such steps, but it appears to be necessary. I had actually given up on this, but your story has proven that it is possible. It is just absurd the lengths you have to go to make such a simple change.

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Thanks, Al. Yes, I have seen it reported in a number of places now. It sounds as though it’s only taken five months for the message to get out from the Global Escalation team that these migrations are in fact possible…

      I suspect that Microsoft is trying to head off what would have been an avalanche of frustration that would have emerged once Windows 8 hits the streets.

      However, it still sounds a rather cumbersome process, so I suspect that many folks will still get frustrated – certainly if they have to wait six weeks for it to be completed…

  14. kurotsuki says:

    OK. After one week of email communication, the XBox support team help me by re-associate my old gamertag to a newly created live id, which makes my current live id doesn’t tied to any gamertag. Then I do the same thing with Markiz by re-register marketplace account using correct region this time. It’s worked and I now can see all apps that only released to my region.

    My only consent is xbox live games. Since my region doesn’t supported by xbox live, this makes my previous xbox live games (like fruit ninja, angrybirds, etc) are missing from my game list. I wonder how can I uninstall those games so I can use their space for music collections. My last resort is hard reset the phone. But that will make me lose all installed apps that is not supported by my region. So this is the last resort if there no other way. So, how can I uninstall unlisted apps?

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