UKGC Seeks Consumer Input on Gambling Industry Guidelines

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission [UKGC] has issued an open call to all interested parties, prominently including consumers, regarding proposed changes to the UK’s ‘License Conditions and Codes of Practice’, or LCCP, the framework designed to regulate all aspects of UK-based gambling.

The Gambling Commission announced its call for comments on Thursday, beckoning to “Consumers, gambling businesses, stakeholders and members of the public” regarding the proposed changes, all designed to bolster the commission’s continuing commitment to the “fair and open” licensing and marketing objectives the commission has embraced in recent years.

The UKGC has also published a link to the 34-page report, and though it’s a mite dry (as these things typically are), it’s at least top-lined by an executive summary that highlights the most important changes likely to be implemented late this year. Interested parties who wish to offer input on the UK’s regulated gambling future have until 5pm on 22 April 2018 to submit comments.

The proposed changes to the LCCP include these primary elements:

  • Ensure operators are being fair and open with consumers;

  • Increase the industry’s focus on compliance with the UK Advertising Codes;

  • Ensure operators comply with all relevant consumer protection legislation;

  • Improve the process of handling consumer complaints, including the introduction of an eight-week time limit for licensees to deal with gambling complaints.

According to Sarah Gardner, the Gambling Commission’s Executive Director, “We are proposing these changes because of the risk of consumer harm, concern about lack of compliance with consumer protection legislation, declining public trust in gambling and concerns about advertising. We’re very keen to hear the views of all those with an interest in the gambling industry.”

As the Commission’s announcement notes, the proposed changes are just one aspect of the much larger overhaul being implemented as agency’s rules play catch-up with market conditions. The three areas most focused on in this cycle are the prevention of misleading marketing and advertising, the offering and implementation of unfair promotional terms, and the creation of a more “fair and open” dispute resolution process.

Here’s a bit more from the UKGC regarding each of these three primary focal points:

Marketing and advertising

We work with partners like the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP and BCAP) to make sure that marketing communications for gambling are fair, don’t mislead, and aren’t targeted at vulnerable people. We are proposing changes to our licence conditions to:

• ensure that licensees adhere to the UK Advertising Codes;
• make our current requirements about misleading advertising clearer to licensees;
• introduce a new requirement to prevent consumers from receiving ‘spam’ marketing by email or SMS;
• make clear to licensees that they are responsible for the actions of any third party organisations that they use, if the third party does not stick to any of these requirements.

Unfair Terms

We have been working with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to look at whether the terms, conditions and practices that licensees use are fair and transparent, especially around bonus offers. This work flows from UK consumer protection legislation, which licensees must obey.

We are proposing changes to our licence conditions to make clear to licensees that they must obey relevant consumer protection legislation at all stages of dealing with consumers, and not only when designing marketing materials.

We are also proposing some changes to make it easier for us to take action if we think a licensee is not following the relevant rules.

Complaints and disputes

We want licensees to handle complaints in a fair, open, timely, transparent and effective manner.

We are proposing changes to LCCP to make this outcome clearer to licensees. This includes introducing an eight week time limit for licensees to deal with gambling-related complaints and disputes.

A brief read-through of the proposed changes also shows that the Commission is intent on removing many of the voluntary-compliance aspects of previous generations of the LCCP, and is intent on replacing those with mandatory measures. Such a change will make it far easier for the UKGC to rein in recalcitrant operators who continue to skirt the UKGC’s rules with regards to marketing their services.

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