For some time, the Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) has emphasised to the industry the “importance of putting consumers at the heart of business culture and practice.” As part of its own commitment to achieving this, it approached the team behind Resolver to make it available for gambling consumers to use. From 1 August 2017 gambling consumers are now able to raise complaints against operators via Resolver.
Most readers are likely to have heard of Resolver, if only from the recent industry press attention it has attracted. It was first mentioned in the Commission’s March 2017 publication Complaints processes in the gambling industry a review one year after the introduction of the ADR scheme. At the time, and as remains the case, the Commission message was very clear; it wanted to see operators striving for excellence in handling consumer complaints and not merely focusing on meeting legal and regulatory requirements. The recent launch has prompted us to pop up the hood and take a closer look. If you are an avid Harris Hagan blog reader, you may notice that this blog post has been amended in light of a recent Resolver news alert.
What is Resolver?
Resolver, which was founded after an energy provider ignored a complaint, is used across numerous sectors, including energy suppliers, public services, insurance, travel, shops and banks. It is a free online tool to help consumers raise and resolve complaints quickly and easily. The purpose is faultless and one that should, in principle, be applauded.
Resolver acts as a “one-stop shop” and performs the following functions:
• explains the consumer’s rights in simple terms;
• helps the consumer to prepare an email using a template;
• allows the consumer to record all communications in the same place;
• creates a case file for the consumer; and
• tells the consumer when to escalate their case to the next stage.
At the time of writing there are 17 pages of “rights guides” on gambling, including information on misleading promotions, promoting to children, unwanted marketing, self-exclusion not being observed, not being notified of changes to terms and conditions and issues withdrawing customer funds.
Plainly, there are benefits to operators actively engaging, and encouraging consumers to use, Resolver. The use of Resolver’s template letters should make complaints more intelligible. In theory, this ought to make complaints easier, quicker and cheaper to process. I recently used Resolver to complain about Amazon, a company that is notoriously difficult to contact. My complaint letter was produced and fired off to Amazon within minutes of me filling in a few simple boxes. It was very easy and there is a case file that shows me, at a glance, within how many days Amazon’s first line should respond to my complaint before I am able to escalate to someone more senior. More than two weeks after my complaint, I am still waiting for a response.
Is Resolver mandatory?
Whilst the Commission has stated that it expects operators to accept complaints via Resolver, it is not mandatory. To make it mandatory the Commission would need to make it a licence condition, which would be subject to public consultation.
Are operators added automatically?
A recent Resolver news alert suggests that operators are being signed-up by Resolver i.e. without seeking operators’ consent. The news alert states: “Adding gambling companies to the Resolver system will be a gradual process. The gambling companies perceived to be the largest were uploaded to the system first, others will be added over the following weeks and months.”
At the original time of writing my original blog post (4 August 2017) there were 50 operators that had been signed-up to Resolver. As of today (9 August 2017) there are now 93 operators. That is an extra 14 operators being added every working day!
This raises a few interesting questions, including:
1. why operators are being added to Resolver if it is not mandatory;
2. what happens if operators, for whatever reasons, refuse to accept complaints via Resolver;
3. what happens to the data gathered via Resolver; and
4. whether an operator’s intellectual property rights (logos) can be used by Resolver without consent.
If an operator is not listed with Resolver, consumers can submit a request to see if Resolver can add them to the service. It is not clear what this entails, but it appears that the higher the consumer demand, the more likely it is an operator will be put at the top of the list to be added!
The Resolver news alert goes on to encourage operators to provide “preferred email addresses to forward complaints to”, “further escalation contacts and the ADR they subscribe to, if possible.” The key words are “if possible”. A nice to have, but not mandatory since Resolver is not mandatory.
Escalating complaints to a third party
Currently, there is no way to escalate disputes (unresolved complaints or complaints about the outcome of a gambling transaction) to an operator’s ADR provider via Resolver. The Commission has not ruled out integration in the future, but again that would be subject to consultation. The Resolver website suggests that cases can be sent to “key ombudsmen and regulators”, including the Commission. This is interesting given that the Commission maintains it is “not an ombudsman or complaints service, and [it] will not be able to investigate an individual complaint”.
Key Resolver statistics
• Launched in 2014
• By the end of 2016, it helped over 600,000 consumers to raise and resolve over £81 million of issues for free.
• Over 1 million visitors a month.
• Deals with over 60,000 cases a month.
• Expect to help resolve over £400 million of issues during 2017.
• PPI, flights and packaged bank accounts are the top three most complained about products.
How is Resolver funded?
Resolver is free to use for both consumers and businesses. There are no hidden charges and no adverts. Resolver also promises not to sell “personal customer data”. Whilst Resolver does not use personal data, it does “use trends to help work out how organisations can improve”. Too good to be true? Maybe, depending on to whom the data is sold, but we will have to watch this space.
The Commission’s main reasoning behind the use of Resolver appears to relate to its role in data collection, such as the type of issues raised and whether it is ultimately resolved in favour of the consumer or operator. In its March 2017 publication, the Commission also mentions the possibility that it could remove existing reporting requirements and resolve discrepancies in existing data collected through regulatory returns. Of course, this will only work in the longer term if: (1) operators sign-up to Resolver or it becomes mandatory; and (2) consumers use it. Resolver’s website states that only companies with more than 50 complaints are included in published datasets.
It is too soon to comment on the future of Resolver for the industry and whether gambling will become a most complaint about product. What is clear is that the Commission believes Resolver plays a pivotal role in putting consumers first and data collection on complaints. In addition to reviewing Resolver, we recommend operators critically assess their complaints processes and procedures to ensure they are fair and reasonable. In the words of Resolver, “we should treat everyone how we ourselves would want to be treated.”