New CMA line of investigation opened against online gambling operators
As mentioned in our posting of yesterday, the CMA is opening a new line of investigation into unfair terms and practices that could restrict customers’ rights to withdraw money in their online gaming and betting accounts (whether as part of a promotion or not).
Gambling operators are required to check their customers’ identities to fulfil both their social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) requirements. However, in a recent announcement that can be downloaded below, the Gambling Commission has expressed concern that some operators may be applying these requirements in a restrictive way, preventing consumers from legitimately withdrawing funds from their gambling accounts.
In its latest update, the CMA has asked consumers to write to it by email (email@example.com) by 31 August 2017 if they have experienced any of the following issues:
- terms preventing players from withdrawing any money they have deposited in their account unless they have wagered its value through in full once, or several times
- requirements for players to take part in publicity or advertising activity for a firm before the player can withdraw their winnings, for example, by posing for a photo with a ‘winner’s cheque’ which is then displayed on the firm’s website
- unreasonably high minimum withdrawal limits, for example, someone might add a £5 deposit but the minimum they can withdraw is £25, so they have to win 5 times their original deposit before they can take out their winnings
- daily, weekly or monthly withdrawal limits that appear unreasonably low, for example, compared to the amount that can be deposited and bet over the same period, so someone might have won £10,000, but can only withdraw £1,000 a week
- terms that place arbitrary deadlines on the time given to players to provide information to verify their identity as a condition of withdrawal
The CMA has also identified concerns with some operators where players do not make a withdrawal or place a bet over a number of weeks or months. In particular, some operators have terms which apply ‘dormancy’ charges to players’ accounts after a period of inactivity, or terms which remove all funds from inactive accounts, regardless of the size of the balance.
The CMA has warned that if it identifies operators who it thinks are breaking the law in relation to the above issues, it will take further enforcement action.
Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, has said: “Identity checks are an important duty on the industry to prevent money laundering and to ensure responsible gambling. Where operators haven’t met those obligations, we have taken clear action. However, those checks cannot be used as an excuse to unduly restrict legitimate customers from withdrawing their funds. If the CMA finds specific consumer protection failings in this area, it will add further cause for the Commission to review how fairly operators are treating consumers.”
The next CMA investigation update is due in December 2017.