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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org