Posted by Woods Whur | Gambling

The Gambling Commission (“GC”) published its Business Plan last year for April 2016 to March 2017, pledging to put consumers first and urging operators to do the same. This was hotly followed by its Consumer Plan, described as “a two-way conversation” in which the GC committed to putting consumers at the heart of everything it does, by, for example, making its publications more accessible and continuing to develop its Contact Centre responsiveness and service standards.

Two further recent developments that champion consumers need to be noted by the gambling industry – the publication by the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) of Guidance for the sector on affiliate marketing, and the extension of the services of Resolver to assist consumers in managing complaints about gambling operators and their transactions.

The ASA Guidance was published on 21 July and a full copy may be found here: https://www.asa.org.uk/news/gambling-on-your-affiliates.html. The Guidance applies to non-broadcast affiliate marketing only and essentially emphasises to gambling operators that they bear “primary responsibility” to ensure that advertisements placed on their behalf comply with the Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”) Code. In effect, this means that they are entirely responsible for compliance, not simply with the general Chapter of the CAP Code prohibiting misleading, irresponsible or offensive advertising, but also with the specific Chapter of the Code relating to gambling, which may be found here: https://www.asa.org.uk/type/non_broadcast/code_section/16.html. Gambling advertisements must not, for example, suggest that a player’s personality, self-image or financial security are likely to improve via gambling. Operators should be aware that, if their affiliates do not act compliantly, they will bear sole, or at the very least joint, liability.

In the latest Guidance, the ASA highlights the requirement that operators ensure that their affiliates are not placing advertisements in a socially irresponsible way and, in particular, not targeting the underage, including on social media. This follows their 6 June Guidance on age-restricted advertisements online, a copy of which may be found here: https://www.asa.org.uk/asset/F0AB1553-1212-4106-8C6E6C0047FEBEBA/ That Guidance focussed on the fact that almost 9 in 10 children aged 5 to 15 go online, a large proportion of whom have their own social media profile. Against that backdrop, the ASA is keen to ensure that advertisements for age-restricted products, including gambling, do not reach an underage audience and expects advertisers to use all the data at their disposal, whether that be actively provided by users, inferred from their behaviour or based on information provided from their devices, to ensure that this does not happen.

The July Guidance also makes it clear that advertisements placed by affiliates must be readily identifiable as such, via sufficiently prominent labelling, and that any significant conditions or restrictions applying to promotions must be made clear and transparent. All terms and conditions must be clearly communicated, where to do otherwise might mislead the consumer.

Resolver is an online tool that enables consumers to track and manage any complaints that they might have about products or services. It already works with other key regulators such as the Financial Ombudsman, and is now working with the GC. The extension of Resolver to cover the gambling sector was announced in July.

The GC has shared information about the new Resolver product, whilst stressing that it is independent and not linked to it in any way. Full details, including a link to the Resolver website and FAQs, may be found here: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2017/Consumers-can-use-Resolver-to-manage-their-gambling-complaints.aspx

Resolver has been available from 1 August. It is a free, independent, online tool for consumers which provides information about the issue the consumer wants to complain about, and advice and support on how to write emails and letters of complaint. Resolver is not an intermediary or Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) entity. It does not act on the consumer’s behalf but, instead, helps consumers to structure their complaint and to make informed decisions about the action to take.

This should, in turn, enable operators to deal with complaints more efficiently and to manage customer expectations. Resolver also enables customers to store all of the information about their complaint in one place, and acts as an email service. The GC expects operators to accept customer complaints sent via a Resolver email address, just as they would complaints sent from any other email address.

Despite the two entities being independent, the GC has collaborated with Resolver to develop the information that Resolver uses about gambling.

Resolver has now provided more details for operators, in particular on how the system will operate and on how operators can ensure that the appropriate information surrounding complaints reaches them. The full advice may be found here: http://www.resolving.uk/resolver-gambling-commission-team-up/

Resolver says that its website is designed to ensure the simple and effective management of complaints, for both consumers and companies. It also provides an escalation process to enable the parties to reach a satisfactory outcome. The escalation process applies both within a company and potentially to the GC, in appropriate cases.

Resolver is gradually adding gambling companies to its system, starting with the largest (a process that will take months), but does not expect an immediate influx of complaints about gambling, as it takes some time for consumers to become aware of its services.

Resolver stresses the importance of routeing complaints to the most appropriate part of an organisation in ensuring a quick and satisfactory outcome, so is encouraging operators to contact it with details of appropriate individuals, escalation contacts and ADR entity. These details may be sent to gambling@resolver.co.uk

It will be interesting to see what the uptake by consumers and operators alike of Resolver is, and the extent to which it will play a positive role in enabling consumers’ complaints about gambling – of which we are seeing an ever-increasing number – to be resolved speedily and to the satisfaction of all involved. It also remains to be seen whether the service will benefit or undermine operators, and we will report on this issue further in due course, as the scheme rolls out.

Should you have any queries about the recent moves to further the interests of consumers in gambling, please contact me on 07767782997 or at anna@woodswhur.co.uk.