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Time to take action on unfair terms says Gambling Commission

22 November 2017

Online gambling firms are being told to review the terms and conditions they have in place before action is stepped up in the New Year to ensure consumers are treated fairly.

This announcement comes as a result of joint work with Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), into unfair terms and misleading practices by online gambling businesses. The CMA has found that many online gambling operators could be breaking consumer protection law, through terms and conditions of bonus promotions that are not clear and instances where they have restricted customer rights and ability to access their own money and winnings.

In relation to promotional offers, some of the concerns include1:

  • restrictions on customers being able to withdraw their deposit balance and any winnings generated from deposits
  • consumers being unable to clearly distinguish between play with the bonus balance and the deposit balance, in particular, which balance they are about to play and the terms applicable
  • promotion specific play restrictions (eg maximum bet sizes, weighted wagering game requirements) which are not set out clearly to consumers, reserve excessive discretion to the operator, and which can have serious consequences for consumers, including the confiscation of deposits and winnings
  • significant conditions in relation to promotions are, more generally, not being provided to consumers in a clear, timely, transparent, non-misleading and prominent manner
  • in relation to free bets, operators are not honouring these, despite customers having already placed one or more qualifying bets under the promotion
  • terms which assume consumers have consented to the use of any personal information (including their name) for promotional purposes for the benefit of the operator.

Gambling Commission Executive Director Sarah Gardner, said: “It is of paramount importance that consumers are empowered to make informed choices about their gambling and that the information available about their rights is correct and clear to them.

“The CMA’s findings have indicated that currently there is an imbalance between gambling firms and consumers – too often weighted in the favour of the operator. The CMA has set out its concerns to the gambling industry – this sets out clearly the changes which online gambling operators need to make to ensure promotions and practices are compliant with consumer protection law.

We have been making it clear to the industry that they need to get their house in order on this. The CMA has now set out clearly its concerns so there is no excuse for operators not to act urgently in the interests of consumers. We plan to step up action in the New Year to ensure that consumers are being treated fairly."

Sarah adds: “Too often we have found that the terms and conditions have been complicated, one-sided and difficult to understand. Addressing this is a priority in our recently launched strategy – a roadmap for a fairer, and safer gambling market. Our work over the next three years will include ensuring greater transparency from gambling firms in the information they make available to their customers and we'll be working with the industry to ensure that consumers can make decisions about their gambling more confidently. ”

Speaking to gambling firms at the Gambling Commission’s annual Raising Standards conference yesterday, the CMA gave advance warning of the changes operators are expected to make following its investigation into a number of gambling businesses.

The CMA will publish the findings once enforcement activity into a number of gambling operators has concluded.

1 This is not an exhaustive list, further details will be released once this phase of the CMA’s enforcement activity has concluded.

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  1. More information about how we regulate the gambling industry.
  2. Useful statistics on the gambling industry.

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Last updated: 18 August 2021

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