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Fair and transparent terms and practices

The principles that you must adhere to show you are compliant with licence conditions to ensure that gambling is provided fairly.

Published: 17 May 2021

Last updated: 15 February 2022

This version was printed or saved on: 21 July 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/guide/fair-and-transparent-terms-and-practices

Overview: ## You must treat your customers fairly

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 practices.

The Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) contain relevant requirements at licence condition 7.1 (Fair and transparent terms and practices) and code of practice provision 5.1.9 (Rewards and bonuses – other marketing requirements).

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is the lead regulator for consumer protection law. The CMA has set out clear principles that apply to online gambling operators (opens in a new tab) in relation to their promotions, practices, and account withdrawals. We work closely with the CMA in this area.

You must adhere to the CMA’s principles in order to demonstrate compliance with licence conditions and to ensure that gambling is provided fairly. This is in line with the second licensing objective of ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.

You can also see guidance produced by the CMA (opens in a new tab) to help you review your practices and ensure terms and conditions are in line with consumer protection law.

The following guidance is built on these principles.

Transparency

Consumers must be able to understand all of the terms that govern their play. You should remember that literacy levels vary significantly across the population and a consumer reading your terms may not have English as their first language. There are freely available tools that can assess the reading level needed to understand a piece of text.

The following guidance in this section relates specifically to Promotions.

Ensure all Significant Conditions are provided:

Ensure all terms and conditions relating to a Promotion, including terms which apply to all Bonuses, are accessible:

You should also be aware that:

Marketing of promotional offers must comply with rules set out in LCCP SR 5.1.9.. We have also published guidance on this.

For further information regarding acceptable claims and how terms and conditions should be displayed or signposted in adverts, you can view CAP's guidance on Gambling ads: free bets and bonuses (opens in a new tab).

What not to do

Example of what not to do

Promotional banners must not lead straight to a sign-up page without making sure that the player has had access to all significant terms and conditions.

Additional terms and conditions must not be hidden in a separate tab or window on a webpage.

Ensure that at all times the consumer is informed:

What you should do

Simply including the information in website terms and conditions is not sufficient.

Restrictions on withdrawing deposit and deposit winnings

Players must be informed that they are allowed to withdraw their deposit balance at any time, including when a bonus is pending or active on the account. Players must be allowed to withdraw without restriction, except as necessary to comply with any General Regulatory Obligations.

You must also ensure that:

This doesn't prevent an operator from deducting a fee charged to consumers for processing that withdrawal or, where a consumer seeks to withdraw less than their full deposit balance, reasonably to limit the size or number of separate withdrawals that a consumer may make, provided that this is done in accordance a fair and transparent term in the contract that the consumer has agreed to.

Any fee should not exceed a reasonable estimate of the costs incurred directly by an operator in relation to the processing of that withdrawal.

You must ensure that:

What you should do

Operators must allow players to withdraw funds from their deposit balance, even if they are allocated to a bonus including when a bonus is pending or active in the account. We recognise that numerous small withdrawals can be costly for an operator, therefore, operators are not prevented from deducting a cost-reflective processing fee for withdrawals. However, this must be made clear to players before they deposit. Any charges for a withdrawal must not exceed the direct processing cost.

Operators are required to comply with General Regulatory Obligations.

The deposit balance and bonus balance must always be displayed separately in a clear and prominent manner.

Operators do not need to display balance and bonus pots within the in-game view, as long as this information is displayed on the account homepage.

Promotional play restrictions and wagering requirements must not apply when a player is playing with their deposit balance.

Operators can only apply play restrictions when a player is playing with their deposit balance, when they have software that stops the player from breaching them. For example, if there is a maximum stake limit, the player must not be able to exceed it when playing with their deposit balance.

Operators are free to require players to meet wagering requirements for bonus winnings so long as they can withdraw winnings made with their own funds, no matter how much or how little they have played.

What not to do

Example of what not to do:

  • "Your withdrawals are limited to one per day and no more than five per week"
  • "You may withdraw up to £5,000 per day once you have wagered your original deposit"
  • "Before making any withdrawals from your deposit account, you must first wager the value of this 5 times"

Promotional play restrictions

You must ensure that terms and conditions setting out any Promotional Play Restrictions clearly specify all prohibited types or patterns of play, and do not reserve sole discretion on the operator to:

Your terms and conditions should be structured so that terms setting out prohibitions and sanctions on account fraud, collusion, use of multiple accounts, manipulation of software, exploitation of loopholes or other technical forms of abuse or other behaviour which amounts to deliberate cheating, are contained in separate terms to those relating to any Promotional Play Restrictions.

If a decision has been made that a consumer is to lose winnings or will be refused a requested withdrawal from their account on the grounds of a breach of Promotional Play Restrictions, the consumer must be provided with a full explanation of the breach of the relevant Promotional Play Restriction, including the specific terms breached.

For the avoidance of doubt, this does not require the disclosure of information to the consumer to the extent this would cause an operator to breach any General Regulatory Obligation.

What you should do

Operators should ensure that all prohibited types or patterns of play are listed within terms and conditions. They must also make sure that all types of banned play are listed and that players are aware of these.

Terms and conditions highlighting the possible penalties if fraud/cheating/collusion is identified, must be separate to the terms relating to the promotional play restrictions.

Operators must clearly distinguish between terms intended to prevent fraud, collusion, cheating, bonus abuse etc, and those which outline broader play strategies it wishes to prevent players from engaging in.

Operators must ensure that players are fully informed about the impact of play restrictions.

If a player has not followed the play restrictions and rules of a game and their win or withdrawal is refused, the operator should explain why.

When advising a player that they have not complied with the play restrictions, operators should explain what happened but do not have to reveal any information that would result in them breaching any General Regulatory Requirements.

What not to do

Terms cannot contain a general reference to banned types of play as this is too vague. Players must be provided with as much information as possible, therefore, each type of prohibited play should be specifically listed.

Operators must not ban a form of play that was not clearly outlined to the players in advance.

Operators must not reserve sole discretion to determine when and what forms of play breach terms and conditions.

Example of what not to do

  • Your membership of the rewards scheme may be removed if it is abused, and we will decide on what behaviour and types of play constitutes an abuse
  • ‘We reserve the sole discretion to determine prohibited types or patterns of play’.

Terms giving licensees undue discretion on their application

You are required by the terms of your licence to make sure that the terms on which gambling is offered are not unfair within the meaning of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Under that Act, a term is unfair if it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract to the detriment of the consumer. A term that gives a licensee the discretion to decide when and how it is applied would be unfair under that meaning.

You should not use terms that give you sole discretion as to if and how they are applied. This particularly includes terms covering treatment of customers’ funds where a licensee believes there has been:

Example of what not to do

Have terms that say you “may” or “reserve the right” (or similar) to void or withhold a customer’s winnings in certain situations including those listed above. Customers are entitled to know what action you would take in those terms. Any of your terms concerning treatment of customers’ funds should also comply with our guidance on their un-staked deposits.

Terms allowing licensees to confiscate customers’ un-staked deposits

A customer’s un-staked deposits remain their property. Other than where necessary to comply with a General Regulatory Obligation, licensees must not have terms that allow them to confiscate all or part of a customer’s money that has been deposited with them, but not yet staked.

Free bets and account restrictions (in relation to sports betting)

Do not enforce (or seek to enforce) any Account Restriction against a consumer who has, prior to such Account Restriction being notified to them, made one or more qualifying bets in respect of a Free Bet Promotion, where enforcing such an Account Restriction would:

a. affect the consumer’s ability:

b. materially affect the consumer’s ability to complete the qualifying bets required by that Free Bet Promotion.

Your general terms and conditions must provide the consumer with the opportunity to obtain the full number and value of any free bets in the circumstances as previously set out, and ensure that the terms relating to future Free Bet Promotions make similar provision.

You should ensure that any notification that an Account Restriction has been applied to a consumer informs them:

What you should do

An operator must not enforce an account restriction if a player has qualified for a free bet promotion, before being notified of the restriction where:

An operator must not enforce an account restriction if a player has qualified for a free bet promotion, before being notified of the restriction, where this would materially affect the player being able to complete the qualifying bets necessary for the free bet promotion.

Operators must consider the effect the account restrictions will have and determine whether this is material. A restriction that significantly reduces the market or odds available to a player would be material.

Terms and conditions must state that players are able to obtain their free bets if they have started qualifying for these before being notified of an account restriction.

When an operator informs a player that their account has been restricted, they must let them know that they are still able to take part in an existing promotion if they have already placed the qualifying bets.

If players have started to qualify for the free bet promotion, they must be told how they can receive any free bets that have been altered or removed.

What not to do

Players must not find it more difficult to complete the qualifying bets as a result of account restrictions after they started to qualify for the free bet.

Example of what not to do:

  • If stake factoring meant that a player would be restricted from making their remaining qualifying bets on the most popular sections on a major football market, then that player would be materially restricted.

Compulsory publicity

Do not use, enforce, or seek to rely on any term in a consumer contract or notice which has object or effect of:

What you should do

Operators must not use terms and conditions that forces players to take part in publicity promoting the operator. Players must be willing to take part in any publicity and cannot be pressured or forced to take part and they should give their explicit consent to participate in any publicity.

Terms and conditions relating to Data Protection and GDPR must not be used as an indication that players have agreed to take part in publicity promoting the operator:

Ensure that when a player enters a promotion, operators have been given express and informed consent and the player has accepted the terms and conditions. Players must opt into promotions rather than being automatically enrolled.

What not to do

Operators cannot assume that a player has consented to take part in promotional activity by agreeing to the data protection and GDPR terms and conditions provided by operators.

Example of what not to do

  • "As a member of our VIP scheme, you will be enrolled into our promotions and publicity activity. Please contact customer services if you wish to opt out of this."
  • Don't enrol a consumer in any promotion without first obtaining the consumer’s express and informed consent to accept the terms and conditions of that specific promotion.

The right to vary a promotion

Not to use, enforce, or seek to rely on any term in a consumer contract or notice which has the object or effect of:

What you should do

Operators must not have any terms which allow them to vary or stop a promotion once a player has signed up. However, occasionally there may be a legitimate need to amend the terms of a promotion before a player has signed up to it, for example, to manage/prevent fraud and other unlawful behaviour.

What not to do

Operators must only amend the terms of a promotion before a player has signed up to it. Terms must not be changed after a player has opted to take part.

Example of what not to do

"We will use our sole discretion to amend and modify the terms and conditions at all times. This may include withdrawing the promotion if considered appropriate".

Maximum withdrawal limits

Do not impose, use, enforce, or seek to rely on any term in a consumer contract or consumer notice which has the object or effect of imposing any maximum limit on the amount a consumer may withdraw from their Deposit Balance.

What you should do

Players are entitled to withdraw money from their deposit balance, including their winnings, at any time. Operators must allow players to withdraw funds from their deposit balance and there must be no term in place that restricts this.

We recognise that numerous small withdrawals can be costly for an operator and, therefore, operators are not prevented from deducting a cost-reflective processing fee for withdrawals. However, this must be made clear to players before they deposit.

Any charges must not exceed the direct cost of processing a withdrawal, and any limit on the size or number of withdrawals must be reasonable.

This does not prevent operators from promptly conducting any identity verification or other checks prior to withdrawal as strictly necessary to comply with General Regulatory Obligations.

What not to do

Example of what not to do

"You may withdraw up to £50 per day and up to £500 per week"

Account inactivity

Operators cannot use the grounds that the consumer’s account has been inactive to:

Dormant accounts

Where an account has been inactive for at least 12 months, the funds cannot be considered to be ‘dormant’. As long as there is no prejudice to affected players rights over the funds, dormant accounts can be reclassified for internal accounting purposes.

There should be no reduction in the protection of these funds as per our ‘customer funds protection rating system’. Only where an account becomes dormant as previously described can an operator make a reasonable periodic charge for maintaining the account.

What the operator must do

Before charges are made the operator must do the following:

An operator can choose to remove the funds from dormant accounts from view as long as they have contacted the player at least 30 days beforehand to advise them of the balance, and that they still have a right to access the funds and how to do this.

Operators should not have any terms and conditions which allow them to change the legal status of the money in the player’s deposit balance or alter the player’s legal entitlement or rights to claim their funds, even if an account becomes inactive.

Where an account with a credit deposit balance has been inactive for at least 12 months, operators must try to repay it to the last payment method used. Only after a period of 12 months where the player has not been able to verify their identity can an operator make a reasonable periodic charge for maintaining the account.

What the operator must not do

Operators must not do the following:

Example of what not to do

  • "If you do not log into your account for a period of 90 consecutive days, we may decide to remove your winnings and void your account."
  • "If you do not use your account for a period of 90 consecutive days, we will email you notification of our intention to confiscate your deposit balance within the next 14 days. If you do not contact us, your deposit balance will be forfeited and transferred to the company the day after the 14-day period ends"
  • "If you do not log into your account for 180 days, your funds will no longer be protected under our protection of player funds policy."

Identity verification

Do not:

Confiscate all or part of the funds in a consumer’s Deposit Balance, or otherwise deduct any amount therefrom on the basis that the consumer has failed to comply with any identity and/or age verification requirements set by the operator (including, but not limited to, a request to provide specific documents or information).

Use, enforce or seek to rely on any term in a consumer contract or consumer notice which has the object or effect of permitting the operator to confiscate all or part of the funds in a consumer’s Deposit Balance, or otherwise deduct any amount therefrom, on the basis that the consumer has failed to comply with any identity and/or age verification requirements set by the operator (including, but not limited to, a request to provide specific documents or information).

What you should do

Operators should not remove funds in a deposit balance if a player is unable to verify their identity.Only after a period of 12 months where the player has not been able to verify their identity can an operator make a reasonable periodic charge for maintaining the account.

However, before any such charges are made the operator needs to do the following:

The operator must have made several thorough attempts to confirm the player’s identity:

A summary of the key points relating to the withdrawal of player funds

The LCCP states that as a minimum, remote operators will have to verify the name, address and date of birth or a player before allowing them to gamble.

It also states that before they deposit money, players should be informed of the types of identity documentation that might be required, the circumstances in which it would be required and how it would have to be provided to the operator.

What not to do

Terms should not allow operators to remove funds from an account if a player is not able to verify their identity.

A request made by a player to withdraw funds from their account must not result in a requirement for additional information to be provided if the operator could reasonably have expected to have requested this earlier.

Example of what not to do

"In order to make a withdrawal, you may be required to provide certain documents. If you do not provide this within fourteen days of our request, we may remove winnings and terminate accounts."

Terms that allow winnings on open bets to be reduced

Terms designed to permit you to reduce potential winnings on open bets must not be unfair within the meaning of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The Act defines terms as unfair if they cause a significant imbalance in rights under a contract to the detriment of consumers. We would consider terms that obliged consumers to accept reduced benefits, in the form of lower pay-outs, to be such an imbalance.

This is not intended to capture current practices that may fairly amend potential returns on open bets – examples include terms capturing Rule 4 and situations where there is a clear and obvious error in the odds offered.

Example of what not to do:

Have terms that permit reductions to pay-outs “in exceptional circumstances” or those that are linked to commercial success.

Dispute resolution

The issues in this guidance have been the cause of disputes between consumers and licensees. If a consumer is not satisfied with your response to their complaint, they can refer it to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider. We have become aware of obstructive behaviour when providers attempt to adjudicate on disputes of this nature. Examples include claims from licensees that:

None of these are correct.

Compliance assessments vary in scope and may focus on a specific aspect of your business where we have concerns. Commission staff do not ‘approve’ terms and conditions as part of their work.

Our letter to the sector made clear that all gambling companies need to comply with the requirements set out in the published undertakings, not just those companies that agreed to them.

When asked, we expect ADR providers to look into contractual and transactional disputes between consumers and licensees. The terms and conditions are the terms of the contract between those two parties. ADR providers take account of our guidance when deciding if they can accept the dispute. Our guidance to them is clear: they must consider consumer protection legislation when looking at disputes. This includes, for example, considering whether a contract term is fair.

You should therefore follow our guidance when interacting with ADR providers, and supply any information requested within the specified timescales

Glossary of terms

Bonus

Any funds or equivalent provided by the operator and added to a consumer’s account from which the consumer can place wagers, including deposit matching funds for wagering at the consumer’s discretion and free spins on specific games.

Bonus balance

The total of funds in an account belonging to the consumer comprising of:

Deposit balance

The total funds in an account belonging to the player (other than the bonus balance/ restricted funds) and always includes:

Dormant account

A player's account which has not been accessed for at least 12 months.

Equivalent

The technological equivalent location and/or functionality (as the case may be) in relation to the provision of Online Gaming otherwise than through a website, for example, on non-browser based platforms and technologies such as mobile phone applications.

A clear and voluntary indication of preference or choice.

General Regulatory Obligations

These are any wider legal and regulatory obligations with which an operator is required to comply, including but not limited to anti-money laundering and fraud prevention obligations.

Headline

This is the line appearing at the top of an advert which summarises the product. It is the information in an advert which players generally read first.

Mixed Wager

A wager drawn from both the deposit balance and the bonus balance.

Play Restrictions

Actions that are not permitted when playing a game on its own or in association with a promotion.

Promotion

A special offer made available for consumers in relation to online gaming consisting of a bonus, which, if accepted by a consumer, is added to the consumer’s account, subject to terms and conditions set out in the promotion.

Restricted funds/ Bonus balance:

The total of funds in an account belonging to the consumer comprising of:

Significant terms and conditions

For the purposes of this topic, this definition relates to the key restrictions which apply to a promotion. For example, who is excluded from a promotional offer; time limitations; how to qualify; maximum stake size; wagering requirements etc. We would not expect operators to list all restricted games but would expect them to explain, for example, that some games do not qualify for a bonus or that contributions to wagering requirements varies between games, and clearly link to the details. What amounts to a significant condition may evolve over time, dependent on new games and business models.

Sole discretion

The only person or organisation who has the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.

Stake Factoring

The percentage amount of the maximum bet size offered by the bookmaker that each customer is allowed to get on. For example, if the stake limit on a race at a particular point in time is £500, those with a stake factor of 0.01 would be allowed to get on 1% of the maximum bet allowed in that market - £5 in this case. Conversely a stake factor of 5.00 indicates a customer allowed up to 500% - £2500 in this case

Wagering requirements

Any requirement that a consumer must make wagers totalling a particular value for funds to become withdrawable, whether the total requirement is expressed as a fixed amount or as a multiple of another amount, such as the size of a deposit made by, or bonus received by, the consumer. For the avoidance of doubt, this excludes a requirement that bonus funds must be wagered once, but only if the bonus terms allow the consumer immediately to withdraw any winnings from wagering that bonus.