The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a UK regulatory body responsible for competition and consumer enforcement, has announced the results of an investigation it began in 2016 looking into the online gambling industry. The unfair practices investigation resulted in the regulator issuing a lengthy guidance note regarding what online operators need to do to ensure fair play and fair practices.
One main area of focus was the ability of players to withdrawal their funds and CMA pressure has led to two more companies removing obstacles put in place to keep players money in the game, even when they are not interested in continuing to gamble.
Progress Play and Jumpman Gaming, two smaller UK online gambling operators, had set in place elaborate terms and conditions that would keep their players from withdrawing their funds if they hadn’t logged in to their accounts within a certain amount of time or if they were too slow in proving their identity.
Unfair trade practices
In its guidance note, the CMA concluded that such practices were unfair in light of Part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) and under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Practices 2008 (CPRs) law.
At the beginning of the report explaining the investigation, the CMA outlined the key questions they were seeking answers for. Under the CRA, all contract terms must be fair and transparent, and the CMA was looking to see whether certain terms in online gambling contracts created “a significant imbalance, contrary to the requirement of good faith, to the detriment of the consumer.”
Under the CPRs the regulator was looking at possible “unfair commercial practices, in particular misleading acts or omissions” as well as “behaviour contrary to the requirements of professional diligence”.
Progress Play and Jumpman gaming now join a short list of other online operators including PT Entertainment Services, Ladbrokes and William Hill in adjusting their practices to fall into line with the CMA’s requirements.
Giants like William Hill, Ladbrokes and PT Entertainment had been involved in creating restrictions on players cashing out while using a casino bonus offer. While they were earning or using their bonus gamblers on these sites were prevented from cashing out or required to forfeit the proceeds they had earned off the bonus is they wanted their money. Such practices were deemed unfair trading practices by the CMA.
As a result, all of the firms have now adopted policies that reflect the flowing conditions:
“Promotional Play Restrictions and Wagering Requirements (if applicable) do not apply to any play by a consumer with their Deposit Balance except where ingame mechanisms automatically prevent a consumer from placing a wager that contravenes the Promotional Play Restrictions.”
Ensuring players can cash out
In a nutshell, this is designed to ensure that a player may cash out even while the bonus is in play and that their request to withdrawal funds from their own account will not void the bonus as operators are not prohibited from offering such terms and conditions.
The CMA pointed out that this method of sanctioning players who wish to withdrawal their own funds creates unacceptable and unfair pressure on players to continue to keep gambling even when they have decided they are no longer interested in doing so.
Over the last few years this practice, of penalizing players for making withdrawals while using a bonus code, has become wide-spread across the industry and affected everything from Casino gambling terms and conditions to sports betting sites and online poker.
Companies who fail to comply with the new guidance and eliminate such restrictions could face fines or disciplinary action by the UK Gambling Commission.
Sarah Gardner, Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission stated, “We back the action taken by the CMA today. Gambling firms must treat their customers fairly and not attach unreasonable terms and conditions to their promotions and offers.
We expect all Gambling Commission licensed businesses to immediately review the promotions and sign up deals they offer customers and take whatever steps they need to take, to the same timescales agreed by the three operators, to ensure they comply.”
George Lusty, a project director at the CMA added, “Gambling always carries a risk, but players should never face unfair restrictions that prevent them from getting at their money. Firms mustn’t stack the odds against players, by putting unfair obstacles in their way, or making it difficult for them to stop gambling when they want to.”
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