CMA inquiry could expand further says lawyer

CMA inquiry could expand further says lawyer

Monday, January 23, 2017 Posted by Andy McCarron
Olswang conference hints at regulator coordination

The message from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Gambling Commission when it comes to the terms and conditions of bonus offers and the marketing of promotions is that the industry “must try harder”, according to a legal expert.

Speaking at the Olswang Gambling Conference in London last week, Anne Soilleux-Mills, legal director at Olswang and consumer protection regulation expert, said the industry had effectively been out on notice by the CMA inquiry which was announced in October last year.

Noting the timing of the announcement of the TGP case last week, where the Isle of Man-based platform provider admitted to poorly explained terms and conditions in relation to offers across four brands at the time of last year’s Cheltenham Festival, Soilleux-Mills said it seemed evident that the combined actions being taken in the area were no coincidence.

“The Commission has likely been nagging the CMA,” she added.

The CMA investigation is looking at a number of issues surrounding marketing terms and conditions including the sign-up promotions, palpable error terms, the current wide discretion over breaches or terms and disproportionate sanctions, limiting of consumer remedies and the withholding of winnings.

Soilleux-Mills was speaking on the day that the CMA announced it had broadened the scope of the investigation. According to a press release last week, the CMA said it was particularly concerned about information it had received suggesting that players may be placing sports bets, which according to the terms of a promotion qualify them for a free bet, only later to be told they are not eligible for the promotion.

The CMA said it was be providing another update in April but Soilleux-Mills believes the inquiry scope could be stretch even further.

It is also still unknown as to which companies are being investigated. Soilleux-Mills suggested it was likely to be the top operators in each product that will make up the ten firms that are being scrutinised.

When the CMA enquiry was announced in October, Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director for Consumer Enforcement, said that gambling “inevitably involves taking a risk, but it shouldn’t be a con.”

The CMA added that it was worried players were losing out because gambling sites were making it too difficult for them to understand the terms on which they’re playing. The CMA said at the time it was investigating to see whether firms were breaking the law.

Soilleux-Mills said last week that the industry would be expected to learn lessons from inquiry and change its behaviour with regards to bonuses and marketing terms. “All other operators will be expected to listen and learn from the findings,” she said.

Totally Gaming says: If the UK’s online gambling industry is feeling a touch paranoid at present with regards to official inquiries, the Olswang conference confirmed it is right to be. As the news last week from the CMA confirmed, its current probe is likely to be wide-ranging and will likely have far-reaching effects on the industry and its practices with regard to its marketing activities.

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