Now isn’t a good time to be an online gambling operator, if you are intent on breaking consumer law.
That’s because last week the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it is stepping up a campaign of enforcement designed to protect punters, investigating operators who unfairly hang on to customers’ money, and that are misleading with the details of their sign-up promotions.
It marks the continuation of a massive task; cleaning up parts of a £4.5 billion sector, with a joint program already underway courtesy of the CMA and the Gambling Commission.
There is expected to be a particular focus on the bonuses which are offered to players in an effort to tempt them into signing up for platforms. The CMA has highlighted confusing terms and conditions, as well as advertising which may give punters a false impression, as two areas which need looking into.
Concerns include the requirement that customers must play a high volume of games or make a large number of bets before they are permitted to withdraw money. This means that they may not have the option to take their winnings and quit when they so choose. This difficulty in withdrawing money is often exacerbated by rules which set minimum withdrawal limits for punters too high – much higher than their original deposit in some cases.
“We know online gambling is always going to be risky, but firms must also play fair,” said the CMA’s Senior Director for Consumer Enforcement, Nisha Arora.
She continued: “People should get the deal they’re expecting if they sign up to a promotion and be able to walk away with their money when they want to. Sadly, we have heard this isn’t always the case. New customers are being enticed by tempting promotions, only to find the dice are loaded against them. And players can find a whole host of hurdles in their way when they want to withdraw their money.”
Ms Arora went on to explain that the CMA have opened dialogue with customers who have had problems when trying to withdraw their money, helping them in their investigation.
Her counterpart Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive at the Gambling Commission, sounded the following warning: “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.”
The CMA has already received complaints from as many as 800 customers, and has begun questioning operators about the way they target promotions and structure their terms and conditions. The organisation will be using its powers to bring any activities deemed to be illegal to a halt – and this can only be good news for punters, as well as the large share of honest operators in the gambling market, promoting fairness and transparency.
In an ideal world, the CMA won’t simply carry out enforcement, but spearhead a drive for practices across the online gambling sector to be improved.