Exploring the topic of withdrawing funds from accounts and what the data shows
Our Contact Centre continues to receive complaints from consumers about delays they experience when trying to withdraw funds from their gambling accounts. We explored the data to see what is going on.
Posted 17 July 2023 by Lucy Denton
The Gambling Commission’s Contact Centre receive over 6,000 calls annually from consumers and prospective licensees with questions, complaints and queries related to gambling and the regulated sector. Of all the different issues raised with our hardworking Contact Centre, problems with withdrawals from accounts remain the number one topic raised by consumers.
Consumers are often frustrated to find that, having made a request to an operator to withdraw funds from their gambling account, sometimes they have to wait for long periods for the funds to become available to them. We also hear from consumers who have been required to send certain forms of information to the operator, such as identity documents, before the withdrawal can be processed.
We know there can be valid reasons for some delays to account withdrawals which are beyond a gambling firm’s control. For example, if a consumer’s debit card has expired or the delays are down to their bank’s own processes. Gambling companies have clear obligations to ensure that their businesses are not in receipt of proceeds of crime, and they must act on any concerns they have. This means that on rare occasions, they may need to withhold a withdrawal whilst they run checks.
Data provided to the Commission by some of the largest gambling companies shows that those firms approve, process and fulfil around 99 percent of customer withdrawal requests within 24 to 48 hours of the request being made.
But when you have over 20 million people gambling every four weeks, a mere 1 percent of withdrawals taking longer can still mean a lot of frustrated customers.
Our rulebook – the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) - contains a number of provisions which make clear that operators should treat their customers fairly. That includes their withdrawal policies.
Given the high volume of complaints we receive on account withdrawals, we have a Business Plan commitment this year to review and, where necessary, update our approach to tackling non–compliance related to fair and transparent terms and practices, including the processing of customer withdrawals.
How we are helping consumers and gambling companies
We have already started talking to gambling firms about why we’re seeing these complaints, what they do with withdrawals and what they should be doing to treat their customers fairly – and we will continue to work with companies on this.
We have published our expectations of gambling companies regarding withdrawals on our website and our previous work with the Competition and Markets Authority outlined some key expectations of remote gambling operators in respect of consumer rights, including that players must be informed that they are allowed to withdraw their deposit balance at any time.
We also updated our LCCP in 2019 to make clear that operators should verify a customer’s identity before permitting them to gamble – and that any information the operator deems necessary to verify identity should not be requested as a condition of withdrawal.
This means that whilst the licence condition does not prevent an operator from seeking information on the customer which they must obtain at that time due to any other legal obligation, firms should not request additional information from a customer, as a condition of a withdrawal, if the operator could have reasonably requested that information earlier.
It is not acceptable for operators to introduce friction when a customer tries to withdraw from their account rather than the point at which they deposit into the account, or to place the operator’s commercial interests over those of their customers.
Similarly, any information the operator requires from the customer to identify whether they are at risk of gambling-related harm should not be used to delay or prevent the customer withdrawing their funds. A customer’s ability to deposit or gamble may in certain circumstances be impacted, but their ability to withdraw funds should not be.
More generally, operators must comply with consumer protection laws and treat customers in a fair, open and transparent way. This extends to operators’ terms and conditions, and their practices.
Licensees must ensure that the terms on which gambling is offered, and any consumer notices relating to gambling activity, are not unfair within the meaning of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Licensees must comply with those terms.
Licensees must also ensure that they do not commit any unfair commercial practices within the meaning of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, at any stage of their interactions with consumers.
We will keep tracking the complaints we receive to understand consumer’s experiences, as their views shape our work.
In addition, we’ll be undertaking targeted compliance activity to look at operators’ published terms and practices. We’ll share any lessons arising from that work and will consider whether there is any need to further strengthen our regulatory framework.
About the author
Lucy Denton is the Commission's Director of communications