UK watchdogs warn operators to put the consumer first

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued a warning to operators that it must put an end to unfair and unclear bonus terms & conditions and to start putting the customer first.

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The Competition and Market Authority is investigating the gambling industry. © Agg-net.

The warning comes as the watchdog continues its review into the industry and was issued by George Lusty, a project director at the CMA, during a speech at the UK Gambling Commission’s Raising Standards conference event last week.

Lusty heads up the CMA’s team investigating complaints of unfair terms related to gambling bonuses by online gambling operators. In cases where complaints are upheld, the CMA has the power to take action and enforce protection laws.

Lusty’s concerns centre around the lack of clarity concerning bonuses’ terms and conditions and restrictions on withdrawing the winnings resulting from the use of bonuses and offers.

Lusty referred to restrictions as unfair to the customer and that operators should not offer promotions that have restrictions on withdrawals. Speaking at the conference, Lusty said:

A common feature of deposit match and bonus promotions is that consumers are prevented from being able to access any winnings obtained using their deposit funds unless and until the specified wagering requirements of the promotion are met… The legal principles underlying our concerns in this area are particularly straightforward, as they purport to give operators a one-sided right to change the terms of a deal after the consumer has already acted on a particular understanding of that deal and its valueGeorge Lusty, CMA project director

Bonus offers are likely to come under particular scrutiny then. The CMA seems to already believe that current terms and conditions of many bonus offers are misleading consumers and would therefore fall foul of consumer protection laws.

Customer protection an increasing theme

Back in June, the CMA launched enforcement action against operators that it deemed were breaking consumer law. In cases where operators do not comply with the rulings of the CMA, they can be referred to the UK Gambling Commission or forced to go to court.

The Gambling Commission itself has frequently reiterated its move to put the customer first of late. With the CMA investigation ongoing and it outlining a strong position that could seek to change the law regarding the terms and conditions of online gambling companies’ bonuses, the focus of consumer protection will likely stay in the spotlight.

You can read George Lusty’s speech in full online.

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