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Handling complaints and Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Published:
1 April 2021
Updated:
11 June 2021
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Licensed gambling operators are required to meet certain standards when handling complaints. They must also offer dispute resolution by an independent third party or Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider.

How to handle customer complaints

You must make sure your policies and procedures for accepting and handling complaints are fair, open and transparent.

Your procedures must give customers clear and accessible information on how to make a complaint.

They must also include:

  • the timescales you will take to respond
  • information about how the customer can escalate the complaint, if they are not satisfied.

You must have arrangements in place for your customers to be able to refer any dispute to an ADR provider if you have been unable to resolve the dispute within 8 weeks of receiving it.

You must also take account of any applicable learning or guidance that we publish and change your policies and procedures as necessary.

Developing complaints handling policies

We expect you to follow our guidance on how we expect you to handle complaints and disputes.

This guidance:

The guidance gives you some flexibility in how you comply

In the guidance, we use the word ‘must’ for a legal obligation that you must follow. We use the word ‘should’ as a recommendation of good practice that we expect you to follow. We will expect you to be able to explain the reasons if you depart from that good practice standard.

You should accept complaints made in person, over the phone or by email where such facilities exist, or via third party intermediaries or support tools, such as the free online tool Resolver (opens in new tab).

What you should do when handling complaints

You should provide the customer with written confirmation that they have reached the end of your complaints procedure at the end of 8 weeks after receiving the initial complaint (or sooner, if you reach the end of your complaints process sooner), with information about how to escalate the case to ADR.

You should also respond to enquiries from ADR providers within 10 working days of receiving the request.

You should not impose unreasonable time limits for customers to make complaints.

Timescales to respond

The entire complaints process takes 8 weeks or less.

  1. Receive the complaint

    This is day one of the process.

  2. Acknowledge receipt

    You should give customers an acknowledgement of the complaint as soon as reasonably possible and within 3 working days of receiving it.

    If your business offers 24-hour gambling facilities, you should give acknowledgement within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.

  3. Investigate and issue a decision

    We encourage you to be open and transparent when handling complaints.

  4. If the customer is satisfied with the outcome

    This is the end of the process. You should then issue a final response in writing.

  5. If the customer is not satisfied with the outcome

    You may choose to put in place procedures so that the complaint can be escalated within the business.

    You must ensure that the entire complaints process, including any internal escalation, takes no longer than eight weeks from when you first received the complaint.

  6. Write to the customer confirming the end of the process

    The letter should explain the final decision and that this is the end of the business’s complaints process. It should also explain how the customer can escalate their complaint to an independent ADR entity if they want to.

    The process ends if the customer’s complaint remains unresolved after eight weeks, or if you and the customer reach a deadlock or final position in less than 8 weeks.

Escalating to an Alternative Dispute Resolution

You must offer customers dispute resolution free of charge if a dispute about the outcome of their gambling transaction has not been resolved by your complaints procedure within 8 weeks or earlier.

You must choose an approved ADR provider. You can have more than one ADR provider but you must tell customers which is the relevant one for their dispute.

ADR guidance for businesses

We recommend you follow guidance on alternative dispute resolution (opens in new tab) originally produced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (opens in new tab).

What you must do

We have summarised the requirements for licensed gambling operators and ADR as follows.

Offer binding decisions

We expect you to offer ADR which is binding (if accepted by the customer) for disputes which would otherwise be taken to the small claims court. These are disputes of no more than £10,000.

For disputes over £10,000, the ADR procedure does not need to be binding. For example, this would mean that mediation could be used for disputes of more than £10,000 or for adjudication decisions to be non-binding on the operator.

What you must tell your customers

You must provide information to you customers in a clear, comprehensible, and accessible way.

Your terms and conditions of sale or service contracts must include information about the ADR provider you use to resolve disputes.

This includes:

  • their name
  • contact details
  • website address.

Retention of ADR information and records

You need to have appropriate arrangements in place to retain the information and records necessary to facilitate effective procedures for dealing with customer complaints and disputes.

Failure to hold records and information may result in a dispute being resolved in the customer's favour if you cannot produce appropriate records or evidence.

ADR requirements only apply to businesses which contract directly with consumers

However, 'B2B' operators should support ADR processes. For example, by providing information to the businesses with which they contract to support investigation of a dispute.

Unlicensed gambling operators

Gambling businesses which are not licensed by the Commission are not required by us to offer dispute resolution. For example, unlicensed family entertainment centres or pubs and clubs with gaming machines.

However, we recommend you read the alternative dispute resolution guidance in full to ensure your business is compliant with the law.

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