Online gambling businesses required to remove unfair cash withdrawal restrictions

It has been announced today that, following CMA action, two online gambling operators– Jumpman Gaming Limited and Progress Play Limited – have been required to make it easier and fairer for players to withdraw their cash. As explained below, the Gambling Commission now expects all other operators to follow suit by amending their own terms and conditions, failing which regulatory enforcement action will be taken.

This represents the next stage in the CMA’s investigation into the gambling sector’s compliance with the requirements of consumer protection law (i.e. the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and Part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015) that prohibit unfair contract terms in consumer contracts and require that terms be transparent.

As we have previously reported, the CMA announced in June 2017 a new line of enquiry to look further into obstacles that people face when they try to withdraw their money after depositing funds and gaming or betting online (whether as part of a promotion or not). This has led to Jumpman Gaming and Progress Play formally committing (by way of undertakings) to remove terms and conditions which stopped players getting hold of their own money in one go.

The CMA has made clear that:

  • its view in relation to the terms and conditions in question does not amount to a binding ruling, because ultimately only a court can rule that a particular term or practice infringes the law,
  • provision of these formal commitments by the two operators is not an admission by them of a breach of the law, and
  • it acknowledges the cooperation of Progress Play Limited and Jumpman Gaming Limited throughout the investigation.

The CMA’s announcement goes on to state as follows:

With growing numbers of people choosing to play games and gamble online, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating the £4.9billion sector after finding that a number of firms use unfair practices and terms and conditions.

Until now, players using Jumpman Gaming and Progress Play could be made to withdraw their money in instalments over an extended period, which could lead some to gamble again where they might otherwise make a withdrawal.

The companies have also agreed to stop using unfair terms which meant they could confiscate money from players’ accounts because they had not logged in for a certain amount of time.

In addition, Progress Play has agreed not to confiscate players’ money if they do not meet their identity check rules within a specific timeframe. Whilst companies need to be able to make appropriate and proportionate identity checks to help prevent money laundering and fraud, they cannot justify confiscating someone’s money simply because they do not provide information within a specific time frame.

The CMA has been working in collaboration with the sector regulator, the Gambling Commission, to improve terms and conditions for players online and to help ensure firms do not break consumer protection law.

The changes being made by these companies today are supported by the Gambling Commission, which expects firms across the sector to apply the same standards to make online gambling fairer for players. Firms that do not make any necessary changes to their terms may face regulatory action.

George Lusty, Senior Director for Consumer Protection at the CMA, said:

“People choosing to gamble online should be able to walk away with their own money whenever they want to. Jumpman Gaming and Progress Play are the first to commit to scrap their unfair withdrawal rules, but we expect companies across the sector to follow suit so no-one gets caught out with unfair terms and conditions when gambling online.”

Paul Hope, Executive Director, Gambling Commission said:

“We support the outcome of the CMA’s investigation, and we’re pleased that both of the operators involved have committed to making changes that will make it fairer and simpler for customers to withdraw funds from their online gambling accounts. Gambling firms should not be placing unreasonable restrictions on when and how consumers can take money out of their accounts. We now expect all online operators to review the findings published by the CMA today and ensure they update their own practices.”

The Gambling Commission has reported this same story on its own website as follows:

Online gambling businesses are required to remove unfair restrictions placed on customers withdrawing money from their gambling accounts or face action by the Gambling Commission.

This comes following the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announcing the outcome of its latest investigation into unfair terms and practices in the online gambling sector.

The CMA has published enforcement action against two gambling firms, which have now committed to make changes that ensure customers are not unfairly prevented from withdrawing their money. All gambling firms are now required to adhere to the standards set out by the CMA.

Paul Hope, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, said:

“We are committed to raising standards for consumers in the gambling sector to ensure they are getting a fair deal. We’ve already been working with the CMA to tackle unfair online gambling promotions, and today’s announcement will improve how customers are treated. In July, we announced new rules, which will make it quicker and easier for the Commission to take action for breaches of consumer law. That includes taking action where firms breach the principles laid out by the CMA. We support the action taken by the CMA and expect all online gambling businesses to take immediate action to update their practices in line with these, or face action by the Commission in the future.”

We have previously reported on the above-mentioned “new rules” which will come into effect on 31 October 2018, making it quicker and easier for the Commission to take enforcement action for breaches of consumer law. This subject was also featured within this month’s Licensing Expert article by David Clifton for SBC News entitled “More of the same with yet more to come”.