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Do you know the rules of online gambling?

online gambling

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is working with the Gambling Commission to tackle issues around fairness and transparency in the online gambling sector. Our guest, George Lusty, Project Director at the CMA, tells us more…

Since we started our investigation into the online gambling sector last October, we’ve received hundreds of complaints from customers, and we’ve examined how a number of sign-up promotions for online casino games work. We’ve also looked at the terms and conditions that accompany these promotions (usually in very small print).

We’ve now started enforcement action to stop a number of companies from using terms which we believe breach consumer protection law. We’re committed to securing compliance with the law so that customers understand what they are signing up to and get a fair deal.

Complicated T&Cs

Promotions look tempting, with companies offering bonus money to match the cash the customer puts in, or offering free bets or free spins. Unfortunately, these eye-catching offers often come with complicated terms and conditions, which aren’t obvious or easy to understand.

We’ve received many complaints from customers who’ve had to satisfy requirements hidden in the small print before being able to withdraw any winnings. For example, customers who didn’t know about or understand complicated ‘wagering requirements’, which require customers to place many hundreds of bets before they can withdraw winnings. This restriction can even stop customers from withdrawing winnings they made entirely with their own deposits.

We’ve also seen complaints where customers satisfied the wagering requirements but still couldn’t withdraw winnings because they’d breached some other term of the promotion that they didn’t know about. For example, they exceeded a maximum bet size, or took too long to place the required number of bets to meet the wagering requirements. In some cases, customers could continue placing bets with no warning that their entire winnings would be forfeited because of a breach of a term they either hadn’t spotted or hadn’t understood.

Help needed

Since we launched our investigation, we’ve heard about other concerns. We’ve now widened the scope of our investigation to look at other obstacles faced by customers (playing either in or outside of a promotion) when trying to withdraw their money. We’d like to hear from anyone who has experienced problems when withdrawing winnings.

For example, if they’ve fallen foul of:

  • an unreasonably high minimum withdrawal amount, such as higher than the minimum deposit needed to play on the site
  • a daily, weekly or monthly withdrawal limit that appears unreasonably low, especially when compared to the amount that a customer can deposit and bet over the same period
  • an arbitrary deadline on the time customers must provide information to verify their identity as a condition of withdrawal
  • a requirement that customers undertake certain activities that the operator can then use for promotional purposes before they can withdraw their winnings, such as posing for a photo with a ‘winner’s cheque’, with photos subsequently being put on the operator’s website.

We’re also interested in hearing from customers who’ve had problems where they haven’t made a withdrawal or placed a bet for several weeks or months. We’ve heard that some operators have terms which apply ‘dormancy’ charges to consumers’ accounts after a period of inactivity, or which remove all funds from inactive accounts, regardless of the size of the balance.

This is a guest contribution by George Lusty at the CMA. All views expressed here are George’s own and not necessarily those shared by Which?.

Do you gamble online? Have you experienced any of the issues the CMA has concerns about? If you have a private story you’d like to share with the CMA to help it in its investigation, email gambling@cma.gsi.gov.uk

Comments
Member

An interesting example of the Government allowing an industry of dubious morality to exist at all but for the tax money and industry lobbying.

One of the problems I see is that by involving the CMA it sheds a cloak of respectability and protection across the whole business. My preference would be to tell anyone wishing to bet is you are on your own and there are lots of crooks to take your money and infect your computer.

Play bingo, buy lottery tickets, or invest in PSB’s but don’t rely on concepts of a “fair” deal. It’s called gambling because you are pitting your wits against professionals whose aim is to divest you of your money and they set the terms and conditions.

Member

I agree Patrick. Gamblers very rarely beat the industry, and online simply puts more temptation in the way of people who seem to lack common sense. Trouble with online is we cannot stop it. But we could stop the adverts and programmes on TV.

Member

It’s nice to have a Conversation about a topic I have no need to worry about. Having my arm twisted to buy a raffle ticket is the nearest I get to gambling.

Nevertheless, I support efforts to stop others from being exploited.

Member

Perhaps we could be looking at something more useful in terms of helping consumers in general and the disadvantaged in dealing with easy buying and easy credit. Humans are not rational creatures and need all the help that can be provided against gambling and other easy ways to get into financial problems.

Mental Health Charity launches free tool to curb online shopping as half of us admit we make purchases we
regret, which most never send back

“Join the trial by downloading the Shopper Stopper at shopperstopper.co.uk
The ‘Shopper Stopper’ is a browser plugin that allows shoppers to set the opening hours of online stores, enabling them to block access at times they find purchases particularly hard to resist, such as the middle of the night. The tool, which today will allow users to sign up to join an early beta test, closes online stores and prompts users with a personal message when they try to shop outside their pre-set ‘opening hours’.

New research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute has revealed our difficult relationship with online sales, as thousands of people make purchases they regret, feel unable to navigate returns processes and end up in financial difficulty. This issue is even worse for people with mental health problems.

The charity, founded by Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, found that nearly two thirds (63%) of people who had made purchases they later regretted did so because of sales, and nearly one in ten (9%) said that they always or often regretted purchases made online. As services like Amazon Prime Air and PayPal Credit speed up shopping and delay payment, the pace and scale of this potential harm is set to increase.

Full article here
moneyandmentalhealth.org/the-shopper-stopper-launches/
and then
22 May 2017
From store cards to hire-purchase, rent-to-buy and buy-now-pay-later models, offering credit at the point of sale allows many customers to buy products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. However with the cost of credit bundled with the cost of the good or service being bought, and sometimes tied to time-limited discounts or loyalty offers, the opportunities for consumer detriment are many and varied. This paper explores why people with mental health problems are substantially more likely both to use and to fall into difficulty with these particular credit products and what steps could be taken to mitigate the risk.
moneyandmentalhealth.org/storecredit/