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Guidance

Customer interaction guidance - for remote gambling licensees (Formal guidance under SR Code 3.4.3)

Customer interaction guidance for remote gambling licensees (Formal guidance under Social Responsibility Code 3.4.3)

Section B - Identify - Requirement 3

3. Licensees must consider the factors that might make a customer more vulnerable to experiencing gambling harms and implement systems and processes to take appropriate and timely action where indicators of vulnerability are identified. Licensees must take account of the Commission’s approach to vulnerability as set out in the Commission’s Guidance.

Aim

The overall aim is that customers who are in a vulnerable situation are supported - we require operators to take action when they are aware that a customer is in a vulnerable situation.

Formal guidance

When customers are in a vulnerable situation, they may be significantly less able to understand the risks of gambling and the terms and conditions; and they may be at higher risk of experiencing negative outcomes from gambling.

The key forms of action when a licensee is aware of a customer being in a vulnerable situation are:

  • preventive such as setting limits with or on behalf of a customer in cases where it is considered continued gambling is possible
  • reactive such as taking into account that the customer may not have understood the terms and conditions when considering whether a refund is appropriate.

The Commission has defined a customer in a vulnerable situation as 'somebody who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care'.

To do this, licensees must understand that there are many reasons a person may be in a vulnerable situation and changes to an individual customer’s circumstances may mean that a person becomes more or less vulnerable to experiencing gambling harms.

A vulnerable situation can be permanent, temporary or intermittent, and may be related to health, capability, resilience, or the impact of a life event such as a bereavement or loss of income. It is the responsibility of the licensee to implement systems and processes which effectively incorporate an understanding of that risk so when identified they can act to minimise harm.

We recognise that licensees may not always have information available to them to identify vulnerability, however we expect licensees to:

  • consider the factors that might make their customers more vulnerable to experiencing gambling harm
  • understand whether a customer is at greater risk of experiencing gambling harm and to what extent
  • take timely action in response to the information they have available.

Licensees can have a significant amount of interaction with customers through:

  • customer processes such as verification of age and identity, assessment of affordability and source of funds for anti-money laundering purposes
  • customer services
  • customer chat rooms and forums
  • resolving complaints.

As part of ‘know your customer’ and developing customer interaction policies and procedures, licensees should consider the factors that might make an individual more vulnerable to experiencing gambling related harm. Factors include:

Personal and demographic

If the individual is experiencing poor physical or mental health, physical or cognitive impairment, suffering side effects from a brain injury or medication or has an addiction. If a customer is a young adult, or an older adult.

Situational

If the individual is experiencing financial difficulties, is homeless, is suffering from domestic or financial abuse, has caring responsibilities, experiences a life change or sudden change in circumstances.

Behavioural

If an individual has a higher than standard level of trust or high appetite for risk. In the case of gambling, this can be flagged if the customer takes a high-risk strategy, particularly if inexperienced. If the customer takes a disproportionate effort to earn a bonus offer.

If an individual is engaged in an activity which is highly complex; that they have a lack of knowledge and/or experience of the market.

Access

If an individual has difficulty accessing information because of poor literacy or numeracy skills, knowledge, dyslexia.

Scenarios of how a licensee may become aware of a vulnerability and the actions they should take

The following sets out some example scenarios of how a licensee may become aware of a vulnerability and the actions they should take as a result.

Scenarios of how a licensee may become aware of a vulnerability and the actions they should take
Category of vulnerability and explanation Example indicator for gambling licensees Example actions available to the licensee
Health: If an individual is experiencing poor physical or mental health, physical or cognitive impairment, suffering side effects from a brain injury, taking medication which may increase risk-taking, or has an addiction. A customer mentions their ill-health during a conversation with customer service - the original contact may have been about problems with gambling or more routine conversations. Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.

Ensure appropriate gambling management tools are selected by the customer or on behalf of the customer.

Cease business relationship, particularly in the case of brain injury or medication which increases risk taking behaviour.
Health: The customer is at risk of suicide. The customer discusses harming themselves during contact with the customer. The licensee should have processes in place for identifying and escalating the risk of suicide, including where necessary referral to emergency services.

Licensees should refer to the Samaritan’s guidance for operators (opens in a new tab).
Access and capability: If an individual has difficulty accessing information because of poor literacy or numeracy skills, knowledge, dyslexia; or if an individual has a higher than standard level of trust or high appetite for risk. A customer gets in touch to complain about a game not meeting their expectations and the communication indicates lower than expected knowledge or understanding. Ensure easily digestible information is made available for all customers.

Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.
Life events: If the individual is experiencing financial difficulties, is homeless, is suffering from domestic or financial abuse, has caring responsibilities, experiences a life change or sudden change in circumstances such as divorce or bereavement, job loss. A customer discusses a significant recent bereavement and the impact this is having on their gambling on customer chat functions. Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.

Ensure appropriate gambling management tools are selected by the customer or on behalf of the customer.

Cease business relationship, particularly if you have concerns about the levels of time or money spent by the customer after mitigating measures, or immediately where significant concerns.
Market related: If an individual is engaged in an activity which is highly complex; that they have a lack of knowledge and/or experience of the market. For example, a customer chooses a highly complex betting product in a niche market. A new customer chooses high risk or complex products in a non-standard pattern - it may be unusual for consumers to choose highly complex betting products when they appear to be new or have little knowledge. Set limits on complex products for new customers.

Ensure customers are provided with appropriate information before playing such products.

Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.

Additional guidance and information

Evidence of harm

The challenges of those in vulnerable situations to interact with a range of financial, digital or complex consumer products is well documented. The Financial Lives 2020 survey conducted by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has found that just under half (46 percent) of United Kingdom (UK) adults, aged 18 and over (24.1 million people), display one or more characteristics of vulnerability. As that report points out, the risk increases as more than one vulnerability characteristic is present and where those needs are not being met. The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) found that people with mental health problems are three and a half times as likely to be in problem debt.

When looking at gambling specifically, a recent report by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute showed findings from a survey of their research community of people with lived experience of mental health, which identified that a quarter (24 percent) of respondents have experienced financial problems as a result of gambling online, and one in three (32 percent) have bet more than they could afford to lose.

Compliance and enforcement – lessons to be learnt from cases involving customers in a vulnerable situation 1

A gambling customer references that they are struggling with their gambling and that they have been recently bereaved. The licensee does not act on this information, and instead continues to offer bonuses.

Compliance and enforcement – lessons to be learnt from cases involving customers in a vulnerable situation 2

A gambling customer is asked to provide information on source of funds to support an affordability assessment and provides information about a medical claim. The licensee does not consider whether the medical issues mean that the customer is in a vulnerable situation.

Next section
Section B - Identify - Requirement 4
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