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.