Consumers need to be 'at heart' of business, according to regulator

Consumers need to be 'at heart' of business, according to regulator

Monday, October 3, 2016
Gambling Commission CEO Sarah Harrison is pushing for consumer protection

The UK gambling industry has been told to put consumers ‘at the heart of the business’ as its regulator has called for consumers, and bodies that represent consumers, to help shape how it converses with the public.

In a new, more consumer-friendly approach, Gambling Commission CEO Sarah Harrison has published a video blog explaining the regulator’s expectations of operators and suppliers.

She said: “We want gambling companies to do much more to put consumers at the heart of the businesses – we’re doing this via the regulations that we set and the way in which we go about enforcing them.

“But we know we also have to do more ourselves to tap into consumer concerns, understand consumer interests and communicate better with consumers – that’s consumers who enjoy gambling, as well as those for whom it may become a real problem.”

Harrison explained that the Commission’s plan was based on three themes: increasing transparency and clarity, being more responsive and working in partnerships, for example with organisations who represent consumers’ interests.

The Commission has published ‘A two-way conversation: our plan for communicating with consumers’ – a report on how the regulator wants to interact with the public. The report details initiatives such as consumer interest assessments, making publications more accessible, expanding research on consumer participation and the extent of problem gambling, and building partnerships with consumer organisations.

Dirk Hansen, chief executive at problem gambling charity GamCare, said: “It’s great to see that the Commission is further developing its views in order to fully appreciate how gambling affects consumers. As a provider of support services to individuals harmed by gambling, we welcome this level of interest both in obtaining information on consumer behaviour, and in reaching out directly to consumers to obtain their perspective.”

Katie Fry, a gambling support service project manager at Citizens Advice, added: “We are very pleased that the Commission is seeking out views from a variety of organisations who already place the consumer at the heart of their work. This will add valuable insight from those who are already committed to this area.”

Meanwhile the Gambling Commission has renewed its partnership with the charity Crimestoppers as part of an ongoing strategy to protect against match fixing, money laundering and illegal gambling.

As part of an information sharing initiative Crimestoppers will pass on reports from the public about gambling-related criminality or corruption to the Commission’s Sports Betting Intelligence Unit at the same time as they are reported to the police.

Nick Tofiluk, Director of Regulation, said: “We’re delighted with this arrangement as it strengthens the collaboration between ourselves and law enforcement. This agreement builds on the excellent relationship we already have with UK police forces and national law enforcement agencies. It also makes it clear that we take the threat of criminality and match fixing seriously.”

He added: “We already have our own confidential helpline which the public can use to report gambling related crimes, but a member of the public might not instantly think that they should report gambling crime to us. Having Crimestoppers pass on gambling–related offences to us, as well as the police, will help us tackle crime and corruption quickly and robustly.”

Rodger Holden, Crimestoppers’ Director of Development, said: “Our ongoing partnership with the Gambling Commission is vitally important in tackling gambling related crime and ensuring the industry’s integrity it maintained.

“With our anonymous service, we encourage anyone with information on gambling criminality to contact us, safe in the knowledge their identity will never be revealed. I am pleased we are able to offer this service, and look forward to our ongoing work with the Commission.”

Totally Gaming says: The Gambling Commission’s focus on the consumer is clearly shaped by the new CEO Sarah Harrison, who appears to be prepared to have a higher profile than her predecessor. It also underlines where the political concern is at the moment – with the end user – so the gambling industry will need to be on its toes and confident that public protection is at the forefront of its mind when reviewing operations.

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