Consultation on customer interaction & ADR and call for evidence on gambling website blocking software

The Gambling Commission has today launched a “three-pronged” consultation on planned changes to requirements within its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”) relating to customer interaction and alternative dispute resolution. It is also calling for evidence on gambling website blocking software

It says that each of the above issues are designed:

  • “to accelerate progress in its drive to make Britain’s gambling industry the fairest and safest in the world” and
  • “to reduce gambling harms and help consumers in dispute with operators”.

It will be open to respondents to express their views on all three or, alternatively, just one or two of the above-mentioned issues. The consultation runs until 9 May 2019.

1  Customer Interaction

Customer interaction describes how gambling businesses identify and interact to help customers who may be at risk of or experiencing harms associated with gambling.

The Commission is consulting on changes to its LCCP (a) social responsibility (SR) code provision 3.4.1 (Customer Interaction) to make it more outcomes-focussed and (b) ordinary code provision 3.4.2.

These code provisions apply to all types of operating licence except non-remote lotteries, gaming machine technical, gambling software and host licences. A separate code provision applies to all lotteries, which are outside the scope of this consultation.

As part of this consultation the Commission is requesting views on strengthening its expectations on identifying and interacting with customers, evaluating what works, and taking into account its guidance on customer interaction.

In February 2018, the Commission published guidance on customer interaction for remote gambling operators, an updated version of which it proposes will come into effect at the same time that the revised LCCP code comes into effect. The Commission also proposes to publish equivalent guidance for customer interaction for non-remote gambling operators, that will follow a consistent format and structure to the remote guidance, explaining more explicitly what the Commission means by the process of customer interaction, namely:

• more clarity on what should trigger or prompt an interaction,
• a greater emphasis on the importance of interacting appropriately and in good time and
• the need to evaluate the impact of the interaction on the customer’s activity, and continually review and assess the effectiveness of the approach.

SR code provision 3.4.1

The proposed new wording of SR code provision 3.4.1 (applicable to all licences, except non-remote lottery, gaming machine technical, gambling software and host licences) focuses more on the outcomes that the Commission wants operators to achieve. It is as follows:

1. Licensees must interact with customers in a way which minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling. This must include:

1  identifying customers who may be at risk of or experiencing harms associated with gambling.

2  interacting with customers who may be at risk of or experiencing harms associated with gambling.

3  understanding the impact of the interaction on the customer, and the effectiveness of the Licensee’s approach.

2. Licensees must take into account the Commission’s guidance on customer interaction.

The Commission states that “this proposal sets out the outcomes that we expect operators to achieve to minimise the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling”.

Ordinary code provision 3.4.2

The Commission proposes to remove all three parts of Ordinary Code Provision 3.4.2. It sets out its reasoning for this within the consultation document, including an explanation that it proposes to include the necessity of accurate record-keeping, including where an interaction has not taken place, as part of the guidance.

2  Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

All licensed gambling operators are required to meet certain standards when handling complaints and offer dispute resolution by an ADR provider.

As we have previously reported, new standards and guidance for ADR in the gambling industry, intended to improve how complaints are handled by ADR providers in the gambling industry, came into effect on 31 October 2018.

During November and December 2018, the Gambling Commission reviewed providers against the new standards and the requirements of the ADR regulations. It has now decided to consult on whether it should require gambling businesses to name only ADR providers who meet its additional standards, as well as the requirements of the ADR regulations.

It believes: “this would give an incentive to ADR providers to meet our additional standards, because those that did not could not be used by gambling businesses. It would also make sure that consumers receive a consistent service from any ADR provider in the gambling sector”.

3  Gambling blocking software

In addition to consulting on specific changes to its requirements for operators above, the Commission is also seeking views through a call for evidence on whether operators should have to provide access to blocking software free of charge to customers, and how this could most effectively be delivered.

Gambling blocking software allows consumers to block access to gambling products on their phone, tablet or computer. The Commission believes that: “it can be a helpful tool to add friction between a compulsion to gamble and the ability to be able to do so”.

Paul Hope, Gambling Commission Executive Director, is quoted on the Commission’s website as saying:

We would like as many people as possible to have their say on these two consultations and the call for evidence. The proposed changes are intended to accelerate progress in protecting consumers and preventing them from experiencing gambling related harm.

Making gambling fairer and safer is at the heart of how we regulate and better customer interaction, higher ADR standards and facilitating readily available blocking software are all part of this.

The consultation document can be downloaded below.

Within it, the Commission also states that it will shortly be calling for evidence around gambling with credit in order to gather data on the prevalence of, and risks of harm associated with, gambling with credit cards. It is seeking “to better understand the risks of any unintended consequences that might arise from a prohibition (such as consumers having recourse to more expensive forms of credit for gambling, eg payday loans)”.