CMA and Gambling Commission to investigate treatment of customers

CMA and Gambling Commission to investigate treatment of customers

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by Dhruti Gore, Associate

by Dhruti Gore, Associate

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced it is investigating whether online gambling firms are treating their customers fairly. The CMA is working with the Gambling Commission which has raised concerns about potential breaches of consumer law.

In its press release, the CMA states it is “concerned that players may be losing out as a result of:

• Being locked into complex and strict requirements linked to gaming promotions that are difficult to understand and may be unachievable. These can include terms that require people to play for longer than they had bargained for before they can withdraw money. The CMA is also concerned that players may not be able to withdraw what remains of their deposit, and any winnings, when they want to stop playing.

• 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. The CMA is investigating whether the terms operators rely on in cases such as this are fair.

• Terms restricting players’ ability to challenge a firm’s decision, for example by placing very short time limits on making a complaint or inaccurately suggesting that other means of redress are not available”

Sarah Harrison, the Gambling Commission’s chief executive, 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 Gambling Commission’s press release can be found here.

This follows Sarah Harrisons’ briefing to stakeholders at ICE at the beginning of the year on the importance of operators’ terms and conditions being fair/open and not being overly complex. She confirmed that this would be one of the Gambling Commission’s main focuses in 2016 and this is clearly demonstrated by this joint initiative with the CMA. The CMA has confirmed that the investigation may lead to enforcement action or guidance being issued by the CMA or the Gambling Commission.

We strongly urge operators to use this as an opportunity to review their terms and conditions to ensure that they are compliant with the Gambling Commission’s licence conditions and codes of practice and do not contain any provisions that may be deemed unfair to consumers.