Industry's terms under scrutiny as Commission demands more

Industry's terms under scrutiny as Commission demands more

Friday, October 21, 2016 Posted by Totally Gaming

Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison has reiterated her stance that the industry needs to do more to protect consumers as operator practices come under increased scrutiny. 

The terms and conditions offered by gambling operators in the UK are being looked at by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which has announced that it is investigating whether they breach consumer law. 

Harrison said: “We expect the gambling industry to ensure terms and conditions are not unfair. However, operators are still not doing enough. I continue to have concerns that many of these appear to bamboozle rather than help the customer make informed choices.

“Gambling, by its very nature, is always going to involve risk but customers must have faith that if they win, they will not end up feeling that the deck is stacked against them because of an obscure condition that they did not properly understand.

“We approached the CMA to work with them to address issues in the gambling sector and we are delighted to have agreed a joint programme of work to ensure terms are fair and transparent.”

The CMA, with full backing of the Gambling Commission, has issued Information Notices under consumer protection legislation requiring evidence from companies as a first step to establishing whether enforcement action is required. 

The CMA is particularly concerned about customers:

Being locked into complex and strict requirements linked to gaming promotions that are difficult to understand and may be unachievable.

Companies having a wide discretion to cancel bets or alter odds after bets have been accepted, because they made a mistake when the odds were first set.

Terms restricting players’ ability to challenge a company’s decision.

The terms and conditions of marketing promotions have become ever more complex as the industry has looked to protect itself against bonus hunters and the opening of fraudulent new accounts. 

Meanwhile the palpable error rule, which gives bookmakers almost unlimited discretion to amend bets to protect them against staff error or even collusion with the punter, has been heavily criticised in the past. 

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director for Consumer Enforcement, said: “Gambling inevitably involves taking a risk, but it shouldn’t be a con. We’re worried players are losing out because gambling sites are making it too difficult for them to understand the terms on which they’re playing, and may not be giving them a fair deal. We are now investigating to see whether firms are breaking the law.

“Around 5.5 million Britons gamble online and they must be treated fairly. We’ve heard worrying complaints suggesting people may be lured into signing up for promotions with little chance of winning because of unfair and complex conditions. We’re now working closely with the Gambling Commission to examine this more closely.”

Totally Gaming says: Sarah Harrison gave notice about her views on consumer protection at last month's WRB conference so that this latest investigation should come with the Commission's blessing is no surprise. Along with suggested restrictions on advertising from other quarters, the industry should be looking at new ways of attracting customers.  

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