In 2016 the Gambling Commission addressed the issue of operators’ terms and conditions being fair/open and confirmed that this would be one of its main focuses for the year ahead. This is clearly still an area of utmost importance as demonstrated by two key developments.
In October 2016 the Gambling Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a joint initiative to investigate whether online gambling firms are treating their customers fairly. The CMA has now published an update on its investigation which states that in light of the information it has received, it is asking operators to provide additional information in relation to certain issues around free bet promotions. The CMA has expressed its concern 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 full update can be found here.
On a similar note, the Gambling Commission has published a public statement in relation to the activities of TGP Europe Limited (“TGP”) and Fesuge Limited (“Fesuge”). The public statement identifies a number of breaches of licence conditions and codes of practice (“LCCP”) in relation to bonus terms and conditions as follows:
• TGP and Fesuge breached licence condition 7.1.1B as they failed to satisfy themselves as to the fairness of a particular clause in their general terms and conditions which enabled them to suspend any customer’s account if they suspected bonus abuse. The clause was deemed to be unfair as it gave TGP and Fesuge “a unilateral right to end the contract with its customers on grounds which were not clearly spelt out”;
• TGP and Fesuge breached social responsibility code 126.96.36.199a as they had not made it clear in their bonus terms and conditions “that a person utilising the bonus promotion in relation to one offer would not be entitled to use it in relation to another promotion being promoted by TGP or Fesuge on the same brand”.
The public statement states “the issues identified in this statement are likely to form the basis for future compliance assessments of gambling operators” which makes it clear that the Gambling Commission expects operators to learn from the failings identified here and make changes within their own organisations where required.
The full public statement can be found here.
This reinforce the Gambling Commission and CMA’s commitment to ensuring consumers are being treated fairly by operators, and the CMA investigation highlights that free bet promotions have become a particular focus.
We recommend operators continue to review their general terms and conditions and, in particular, those relating to promotions and free bets, to ensure they comply with the LCCP, do not contain terms that could be deemed unclear and unfair and that all key requirements and limitations of specific promotions are made completely clear to customers.