Complaints & disputes guidance to gambling operators will take effect on 31 October 2018

The Gambling Commission has published a “Complaints and disputes: procedural, information provision and reporting requirements” guidance note that will come into effect on 31 October 2018. It:

  • sets out the minimum standards that the Commission expects from all licence holders (except gaming machine technical and gambling software licences) regarding effective handling of customer complaints,
  • provides advice to licence holders on the implementation on 31 October 2018 of amended LCCP social responsibility code provision 6.1.1 that includes an eight week time limit for licensees to deal with gambling related complaints and disputes, and
  • summarises the reporting requirements that apply to all licence holders (except gaming machine technical and gambling software licences, as stated above).

You can download the guidance note below. A summary of all of the LCCP changes coming into effect in on 31 October 2018 can be found here and you can read David Clifton’s Licensing Expert article for SBC News on the same subject here.

The Gambling Commission’s webpage entitled “Complaints handling and alternate dispute resolution (ADR)” states as follows:

Complaints handling and alternate dispute resolution

Licensed gambling operators are required to meet certain standards when handling complaints, and offer dispute resolution by an independent third party or ADR provider.

Handling complaints

You must make sure your policies and procedures for accepting and handling complaints are fair, open and transparent. Your procedures must give customers clear and accessible information on how to make a complaint. They must also include the timescales you will take to respond, and information about how the customer can escalate the complaint if they are not satisfied.

From 31 October 2018 you must have arrangements in place for your customers to be able to refer any dispute to an ADR provider, if you have been unable to resolve the dispute within 8 weeks of receiving it.

You must also take account of any applicable learning or guidance that we publish, and change your policies and procedures as necessary.

Our guidance on complaints and disputes

We have published some guidance on how we expect you to handle complaints and disputes. The guidance:

  • sets out the minimum standards we expect from you in handling customer complaints
  • provides guidance on implementing social responsibility code provision 6.1.1 (Complaints and disputes) as set out in our Licence conditions and codes of practice
  • summarises what we require you to report to us about complaints you receive.

We expect you take account of this guidance when you develop your complaints handling policies. It gives you some flexibility in how you comply. In the guidance, we use the word ‘must’ for a legal obligation that you must follow. We use the word ‘should’ as a recommendation of good practice that we expect you to follow. We will expect you to be able to explain the reasons if you depart from that good practice standard.

Alongside other areas, the guidance introduces our expectations that you will:

  • accept complaints made in person, over the telephone or via email where such facilities exist, or via third party intermediaries/ support tools such as the Resolver web tool
  • not impose unreasonable time limits for customers to make complaints
  • provide the customer with written confirmation that they have reached the end of your complaints procedure at the end of eight weeks after receiving the initial complaint (or sooner, if you reach the end of your complaints process sooner), with information about how to escalate the case to ADR
  • respond to enquiries from ADR providers within 10 working days of receiving the request.

Flowchart: Complaint process timescales

    adr flowchart

Escalating to ADR

You must offer your customers dispute resolution free of charge if a dispute about the outcome of their gambling transaction has not been resolved by your complaints procedure within eight weeks (or earlier, if you complete your complaints process sooner).

This guide to alternative dispute resolution from The Department for Business Innovation & Skills provides details on the requirements your business needs to meet to comply with the law. We’ve summarised the requirements for licensed gambling operators below, but recommend you read the guide in full.

Use of approved ADR providers

The ADR provider you choose must be approved by us. A list of approved providers is available on our website.

You can have more than one ADR provider but you must tell customers which is the relevant one for their dispute.

We expect certain standards from ADR providers that we have approved. You can read more about these in our Standards and Guidelines for ADR providers. These standards come into force from 31 October 2018.

Online dispute resolution (ODR)

The European ODR platform allows consumers, operators and ADR providers to file, respond to, and handle disputes online (including disputes where the operator and consumer are in different countries within the EU).

Online businesses must provide information about and a link to the ODR platform.

You must inform your customers of the existence of the ODR platform and the possibility of using the platform to resolve disputes, and you must include this information in any standard terms and conditions of business. If an offer is made to a customer by email, the email must contain a link to the ODR platform.

Binding decisions

We expect you to offer ADR which is binding (if accepted by the customer) for disputes which would otherwise be taken to the small claims court (disputes of not more than £10,000). For disputes over £10,000, the ADR procedure need not be binding – this would allow, for example, that mediation could be employed for disputes of more than £10,000 or for adjudication decisions to be non-binding on the operator.

What you must tell your customers

You must provide information in a clear, comprehensible and easily accessible way to your customers.

Your terms and conditions of sale or service contracts must include information about the ADR provider you use to resolve disputes –their name, contact details and website address.

Retention of ADR information and records

You need to have appropriate arrangements in place to retain the information and records necessary to facilitate effective procedures for dealing with customer complaints and disputes.

Failure to hold records and information may result in a dispute being resolved in the customer’s favour if you cannot produce appropriate records/evidence.

Reporting ADR to the Gambling Commission

You must send us a copy of any decision on, or note of the outcome of, each dispute referred to an ADR.

This should include:

  • the name of your ADR provider
  • details of the Commission licences to which the dispute relates
  • a summary of the dispute, including the parties to the dispute, the subject matter, the amount in dispute, the dates of the events leading to the dispute and the views of each party
  • a note of the dispute outcome, including whether the decision was in favour of the customer or not and whether you were directed to settle the amount disputed
  • the reasons for the decision, including relevant rules/provisions applied and supporting evidence.

ADR and business to business operators

The requirement to offer ADR applies only to businesses which contract directly with consumers. However, B2B operators should support ADR processes – for example by providing information to the businesses with which they contract to support investigation of a dispute.

ADR and unlicensed gambling operators

Although gambling businesses which are not licensed by the Commission (such as unlicensed family entertainment centres or businesses which offer gaming machines on their premises such as pubs or clubs) are not required by us to offer dispute resolution, we recommend you read the guide to alternative dispute resolution in full to ensure your business is compliant with the law.

UPDATE: Arising from changes to LCCP Social Responsibility Code provision 6.1.1 (Complaints and Disputes) that came into force on 31 October 2020, the Gambling Commission has updated the ‘ADR requirements’ section of its “Complaints and disputes: procedural, information provision and reporting requirements” Guidance. In addition to the original version of the guidance, you can download below the version as updated in December 2020.