On 1 August 2018, the Gambling Commission announced changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice which will make it easier for the Commission to take tougher action against operators who fall foul of the advertising codes or don’t comply with consumer law. The changes, which follow from a consultation that opened in January, will take effect from 31 October 2018.
In summary, the changes include:
- Strengthening the Gambling Commission’s ability to impose fines against operators that don’t adhere to the CAP and BCAP advertising codes by elevating the requirements to a licence condition (currently the Commission can only impose fines for misleading advertising).
- Further clarifying the principle that operators are held responsible for advertising failings by their third party affiliates.
- Making it quicker and easier for the Gambling Commission to take action for breaches of consumer law, including for unfair and misleading practices or unreasonable restrictions on withdrawals (which have been the subject of the recent Competition and Markets Authority investigations).
- Requiring operators to improve their complaints processes, including an eight week deadline for complaints to be resolved.
- A new LCCP provision enabling the Commission to take action for spam marketing emails and texts.
Whilst being labelled as “new rules”, the changes are largely a clarification or restatement of the existing rules or reclassification of the current provisions to make it easier for the Gambling Commission to use its full arsenal of enforcement powers against operators who breach the requirements.
Some have criticised the changes as the Gambling Commission overstepping its regulatory remit and giving itself powers to take action in areas that properly fall within the remit of other regulatory or self-regulatory agencies, such as the Advertising Standards Authority, the Competition and Markets Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office. Respondents to the consultation expressed concern about “double jeopardy”. No doubt many will be particularly nervous given that the punishments available to the Gambling Commission far exceed those available to the primary regulatory bodies.
If anyone in the industry was in any doubt, the changes to the LCCP further demonstrate that the regulator is committed to getting operators to put the consumer at the heart of their business and, if necessary, is ready and willing to utilise its tougher enforcement strategy to achieve that goal.