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Gambling operators face landmark enforcement action over unfair practices and promotions

23 June 2017

Online gambling businesses are facing enforcement action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) because of suspected breaches of consumer protection law.

This comes as part of a joint programme of work by the Gambling Commission and CMA to tackle concern about whether consumers are being treated fairly by online gambling operators. Last October the CMA opened an investigation to examine possible unfair practices around gaming sign-up and free bet promotions.

The enforcement action addresses failings by operators around transparency and fairness of gaming sign-up promotions for new customers and practices around free bet offers. Alongside the CMA’s action, the Commission will continue to use its own enforcement powers to drive up standards in the gambling industry

Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison said: “Gambling operators must treat customers fairly – but some have been relying on terms that are unclear with too many strings attached.”

“Whilst the CMA takes enforcement action on how consumer legislation is followed, the gambling industry should be under no illusion that if they don’t comply with consumer law, we will see this as a breach of their operating licence, and take decisive action.”

In addition to this enforcement action, the CMA is now opening a new line of investigation into unfair terms and practices that could restrict customers’ rights to withdraw money in their online gaming and betting accounts. Gambling operators are required to check their customers’ identities to fulfil both their social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) requirements. However, concerns have been raised that some operators may be applying these requirements in a restrictive way, preventing consumers from legitimately withdrawing funds from their gambling accounts.

Sarah adds: “Identity checks are an important duty on the industry to prevent money laundering and to ensure responsible gambling. Where operators haven’t met those obligations, we have taken clear action.

“However, those checks cannot be used as an excuse to unduly restrict legitimate customers from withdrawing their funds. If the CMA finds specific consumer protection failings in this area, it will add further cause for the Commission to review how fairly operators are treating consumers.”

Any consumers who have complaints about an operator’s terms and conditions should read the Commission’s webpage on how to complain about an operator.

The CMA would also like to hear about the problems consumers are facing in these areas, and encourages consumers to email:

Read CMA’s press release (opens in new tab)

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  1. More information about how we regulate the gambling industry.
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For all media enquiries, please contact the Gambling Commission press office.

Last updated: 8 February 2021

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