Moving towards a fairer deal

Following a lot of hard work and negotiating by J4P and others, in theory, October 31st 2018 is a good day for gambling consumers, in practice who knows?

What’s new?

  1. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the gambling industry

These new standards and guidance set out how consumer complaints should be handled and make clear the Gambling Commission’s expectations around:

  • The types of consumer complaints ADRs are expected to take on
  • Principles for considering compensation
  • Decision quality standards, particularly focused on how providers look at and use evidence
  • The Ombudsman Association’s (OA) six principles of good governance which we expect providers to follow whether or not they are members of the OA
  • Conflicts of interests
  • The information and customer service providers give to consumers

J4P comment

These new standards and guidance are a massive step forward for gambling consumers.

There is a much clearer structure for dispute procedures, including putting time pressure on gambling companies to sort disputes out fairly (8-weeks).

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers, e.g. IBAS; will have to take on more types of dispute including non-payment of customer balances and do everything in their powers to avoid the need for court action.

ADRs will also have to share all dispute evidence submitted with all parties.  It’s quite incredible that this has never applied before, but consumers can now look forward to much better transparency.  Further transparency is also expected on ADR websites whereby consumers will know the exact stage their dispute is at through the provision of online case tracking.

The introduction of a potential for customer compensation is another interesting new option.  J4P hopes it’s never needed, but we aren’t fantasists.

J4P is also pleased that potential ‘conflicts of interests’ are being addressed and hope to see ‘industry insiders’ of all types being excluded from dispute decision making panels.

Overall, so long as the new standards and guidance are implemented correctly J4P is happy with them for now.  J4P will be watching very, very closely.  J4P genuinely hopes no ADRs will have their licence taken off them, but we also urge the Gambling Commission to do so if service standards do not meet the new expectations.

The full report is here:

2. Changes to licence conditions and codes of practice linked to the fair and open licensing objective

The changes mean:

  • It will be easier to take action, including imposing fines, against gambling businesses that break the advertising rules (such as advertising that appeals particularly to children or glamourises gambling)
  • Firms will face action for advertising failings by third party affiliates
  • It will be quicker and easier to take action for breaches of consumer law (such as unfair and misleading practices or unreasonable restrictions on withdrawals)
  • Firms will have to provide better complaints processes, including an eight week deadline for complaints to be resolved
  • Action can be taken against gambling firms that send ‘spam’ marketing emails or texts.

J4P comment

These updated guidelines were certainly informed by the consumer.  This consultation received more submissions from consumers than any other Gambling Commission consultation.  J4P would like to thank everyone who contributed.  Hopefully, J4P’s constant reminders helped?

For J4P this consultation seemed to be about the Gambling Commission gaining extra powers to take faster action on more consumer and legal issues.  Over the last 30 months its become clear to J4P that gambling companies ‘play regulators off’ against each other, these updated regulations should make this more difficult.

Advertising, affiliates (yes!!) and breaches of consumer law are a major focus of the update and about time too.

There are some improvements in the protection of vulnerable people, but to be fair this issue has been covered in detail within regulations for quite awhile, but until recently, not acted upon by the Gambling Commission.  J4P hopes to see, quicker, more frequent and more robust action in the future.  As everyone knows J4P supports a legal and fair gambling industry, but J4P does not support a gambling industry that exploits vulnerable people or for that matter one that trades unfairly in anyway.

Here is the full report:

This blog began with, “In theory October 31st 2018 is a good day for gambling consumers, in practice who knows?”  So,

What’s needed for it to become ‘in practice’?

  1. Gambling companies to follow the new standards and guidance (little chance in many cases)
  2. Gambling consumers to complain and fight (up to them or as always there’s only one winner)
  3. The Gambling Commission to do their job (umm, but you never know)
  4. IBAS and other ADRs to do their job (umm, but you never know)

The ground work has been done; time to make it a reality.

ps: Don’t forget the campaign for minimum bet (liability) legislation.


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