The UK Competition and Markets Authority has commenced enforcement action against a number of online gambling operators after its investigation of the sector found that customers are being treated unfairly.
The investigation launched in October 2016 aimed to establish whether online gambling operators were breaking consumer protection laws by offering unclear information about sign-up promotions, as well as looking into issues concerning the withdrawal of player funds.
The CMA said Friday that the issue of withdrawals requires further investigation through a new line of enquiry. It has therefore invited players to submit information if they have experienced issues withdrawing funds due to play-through requirements, unreasonably high minimum withdrawal limits, unreasonable daily or weekly withdrawal limits, or terms that place arbitrary deadlines on identity checks for withdrawals. Players are invited to submit feedback to the CMA on these and other issues by August 31st.
On the issue of unfair promotional practices, the CMA said it is concerned that "people often don’t get the deal they are expecting as the promotions come with an array of terms and conditions that are often confusing and unclear and, in some cases, may be unfair".
It found that players may have to play hundreds of times before they are allowed to withdraw any money, depriving them of the choice to quit while they’re ahead and walk away with their winnings. "Even when players haven’t signed up for a promotion, there are concerns that some operators are stopping customers taking money out of their accounts," the CMA added.
After hearing from around 800 disgruntled players and questioning online gaming operators, the CMA identified a number of operators engaging in practices likely to be breaking consumer law, against which it will now launch enforcement action.
Nisha Arora, CMA senior director for consumer enforcement, commented: "We know online gambling is always going to be risky, but firms must also play fair. People should get the deal they’re expecting if they sign up to a promotion, and be able to walk away with their money when they want to.
"Sadly, we have heard this isn’t always the case. New customers are being enticed by tempting promotions only to find the dice are loaded against them. And players can find a whole host of hurdles in their way when they want to withdraw their money."
"That’s why we are today launching enforcement action where we think the law has been broken," Arora added: "We are also asking people who have had difficulties withdrawing their money when they’ve gambled online to tell us about it, and help probe this issue even further."
The Gambling Commission also warned that alongside the CMA enforcement action, any operator that fails to comply with consumer law will be seen to be in breach of their operating licence.