Bank card gambling blockers report back up House of Lords Select Committee recommendation

GambleAware has today (7 July 2020) published the findings of research commissioned to review the availability, uptake, and effectiveness of bank card gambling blockers. Its headline findings and recommendations are as follows:

  • An estimated 28 million personal current accounts do not have the option to block gambling expenditure
  • Whilst blockers could be effective, particularly when used in conjunction with other self-exclusion tools, they need to be enhanced to properly protect people from gambling harm, for example by including a time-release lock that is at least 48 hours.
  • To maximise the effectiveness of blockers:
    • Firms and regulators need to work with ‘experts by experience’ so they can design products, services and interventions for people who are negatively affected by gambling.
    • UK Finance needs to build the report’s recommendations into their member guidance and policy on supporting vulnerable consumers.
    • The Financial Conduct Authority should recommend in its guidance on vulnerable customers that gambling blocks are standard on debit and credit cards.
    • A cross-sector consumer awareness campaign that places bank card blockers alongside other forms of self-exclusion and player control is needed.
    • The UK Government needs to create the legal and regulatory conditions to encourage the financial services sector to innovate and develop a range of consumer spending controls.

This news comes less than a week after a House of Lords Select Committee report on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry recommended that banks should work together with UK Finance to create an industry-wide protocol on blocking gambling payments, with at least a 48 hour cooling off period. That report quoted Alexandra Frean, the Head of Corporate Affairs at Starling Bank, as saying:

It would be helpful for the banking sector to work together more collaboratively on this issue and I will be asking UK Finance to do more to bring the sector together to discuss this and we will work with them on it.

You can download below:

  1. GambleAware’s press release on the above subject
  2. the research report entitled “A Blueprint for Bank Card Gambling Blockers” and
  3. the Executive Summary of that report.

Commenting on the report, Professor Sharon Collard, Research Director at the Personal Finance Research Centre at the University of Bristol (whose researchers conducted the review) has said:

Our research has found bank card gambling blockers are not available on roughly 40% of personal current accounts. This means an estimated 28 million people are missing out on this crucial tool to block gambling expenditure which helps protect them from gambling harms. We are calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to urgently recommend that gambling blocks are standard on all debit and credit cards.

We examined the effectiveness of all existing blockers and found that serious changes are required. The people affected by gambling harms who took part in the review stated that the more positive friction that can be built into a bank blocker, the more effective it can be. It is vital, therefore, that the blockers cannot just be turned on and off, as the benefits of the technology become redundant. Instead, we recommend all financial service firms require consumers to wait at least two days between requesting to turn the blocker off, and the blocker technology stopping.

GambleAware Chief Executive, Marc Etches has added:

Keeping people safe from gambling harms requires banks to play their full part in providing consumers with effective means to block gambling transactions. While some banks have taken proactive steps to help shield their customers from gambling harms, the findings of this research indicate that improvements can and should be made. We encourage the banking industry to work together alongside the Government and regulators to implement the proposed recommendations.