The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has urged gambling firms operating in the UK to review their existing terms and conditions to ensure that they are treating their customers fairly.
Its announcement follows a joint research initiative between the UKGC and the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) into unfair terms and allegedly misleading practices by online gambling operators.
In its research, the CMA found that many online gambling operators could be breaking existing consumer protection law particularly in the terms and conditions relating to bonus promotions and instances where companies have restricted customer rights and ability to access their own money and winnings.
Concerns highlighted include: Restrictions on customers being able to withdraw their deposit balance and any winnings, a lack of definable separation between bonus balances and deposit balances and a lack of clarity on specific play restrictions on promotions which gives operators unfairly high discretion on awarding winnings.
Further concerns raised include a lack of transparency in terms and conditions, operators not honouring free bets awarded as a part of promotions and terms & conditions which assume that customers have consented to the use of any personal information (including their name) for promotional purposes for the benefit of the operator.
Announcing the action, UK 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."