August 1, 2018
The Gambling Commission have today announced new changes to its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) which introduce more stringent requirements and tougher sanctions for gambling companies that break advertising rules or breach consumer law. The changes, which come into force from 31 October 2018, follow a consultation process and focus on the following key areas:
- strengthening the Commission’s ability to impose fines against operators that break advertising rules
- further enshrining the principle that operators firms will face action for advertising failings by their marketing affiliates
- giving the Commission further scope to take action for breaches of consumer law following recent and ongoing initiatives involving the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)
- requiring operators to make improvements in their complaints processes, including tighter deadlines for resolution procedures
- enhancing the ability for the Commission to take action against gambling organisations that send ‘spam’ marketing emails or texts.
The changes do not come as a particular surprise in light of the various consumer protection initiatives driven by the Commission over the last 2 years.
Many of the amendments to the LCCP broaden the Commission’s ability to sanction operators for failing to meet recent and forthcoming consumer law, advertising and data protection standards set by the CMA, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The Commission has re-iterated it position that it does not wish to licence marketing affiliates but has firmly laid compliance by these organisations at the door of operators.
Although some commentators have been critical of the Commission being seen to encroach on the roles of other UK regulatory or self-regulatory bodies, it has clearly concluded that a multi-agency approach to consumer protection in the gambling sector is more likely to make the industry up its game. Operators will, however, be nervous about the possibility of the Commission punishing them on the back of decisions by the ASA, which many continue to view as subjective. This is likely to be a potential source of friction and it will be interesting to see if the Commission reserves this card only for the more flagrant breaches of the advertising codes.
Although not part of its consultation, the Commission has chosen to flag the issue of the “right to bet”, a renewed focus area for consumer groups emboldened by recent changes to rules in relation to FOBTs and online gambling promotions. Whilst recognising that there is no statutory right to bet and that Parliament is unlikely to introduce one, the Commission has marked the industry’s cards that more must be done to explain restrictions to consumers. It is clear that this debate is going to rumble on.
The reality is that responsible operators have been prioritising compliance projects in many of the areas referred to above for some time now in recognition of the inevitable regulatory headwinds. For those operators who remain behind the curve, the changes to the LCCP further demonstrate that the regulator is committed to raising standards and following through on its tougher enforcement strategy to achieve that goal – its toolkit has just got larger.
Further details of the Commission’s announcement can be found here: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/consultations/Fair-and-open-consultation-response-August-2018.pdf