Tougher action against gambling operators breaching advertising rules & consumer law

With effect from 31 October 2018, changes to the Gambling Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”) will mean that gambling companies breaching advertising rules or consumer law will face tougher enforcement action.

These changes are announced by the Commission in a response (published today) to its January 2018 consultation Proposed changes to licence conditions and codes of practice linked to the fair and open licensing objective. The Commission’s response document can be downloaded below.

Intended to provide stronger protection for consumers and to ensure that they are treated fairly by gambling businesses, the changes will have the following consequences (none of which are unexpected):

  • it will be easier for the Commission to take enforcement action (including by way of imposition of fines) against gambling operators that break the advertising rules; examples will include advertising that glamorises gambling or appeals particularly to children and young persons, the latter having been the subject of very considerable adverse media publicity over the last year,
  • gambling operators will face enforcement action for advertising failings by third party affiliates; this was one of the central themes on which David Clifton focussed last month when speaking in a debate on the topic “Affiliate marketing will disappear by 2020” at the iGBLive! Conference in Amsterdam,
  • it will be quicker and easier for the Commission to take enforcement action for breaches of consumer law (such as unfair and misleading practices or unreasonable restrictions on withdrawals); this was the subject of David Clifton’s February 2018 Licensing Expert article for SBC News, entitled “Win or lose …. do it fairly!”,
  • gambling operators will have to provide better complaints processes, including an eight week deadline for complaints to be resolved; this follows a March 2017 finding by the Commission that “the complaints system in the gambling industry is not working for consumers, who have found it difficult to access, time consuming to use, and they question whether it is independent and transparent” and
  • action will be taken against gambling operators that send ‘spam’ marketing emails or texts; in this respect, David Clifton wrote in his December 2016 Licensing Expert article for SBC News (entitled “Affiliates (and operators) in the ICO’s firing line”) about the Information Commissioner’s Office investigation into large numbers of spam texts linked to the gambling sector.

Commenting on the forthcoming changes, Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission Chief Executive:

  • has said: “Protecting the interests of consumers is a priority for us and needs to be a priority for gambling operators. These changes will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions, ensure that they can withdraw their money more easily, and will mean that firms have to deal with complaints more swiftly” and
  • has given an interview to the Racing Post (that can also be downloaded below).

UPDATE: 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.