The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) issued new standards this week designed to improve the process by which consumer complaints are handled in the gambling Industry, including online gambling.
The new standards and guidance which are scheduled to take effect at the end of the month deal primarily with Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), defined by the UKGC as a way to “resolve disputes between consumers and gambling operators without going to court.”
It is advantageous for online gambling consumers to engage in the ADR process when complaints arise as the process is simpler than taking the matter to the courts, the cost to both the consumer and the operator are usually much less and reaching a resolution through an ADR provider can be far less time consuming.
“The standards published today seek to simplify existing complaints processes and ensure consumer complaints are handled in a fair, timely, transparent and effective manner, said Ian Angus, Programme Director for Consumer Protection and Empowerment. “Improved standards will also help cultivate consumer trust and confidence in the industry. The standards will come into effect from 31 October, alongside further changes that provide stronger protection for consumers and ensure they are treated fairly,” Angus continued.
What Online Gambling Consumers Should Know About the UK ADR Process
The UKGC feels that it is important for consumers to know the types of complaints that will be funneled through the ADR process. The regulator defines the complaints suitable for ADR as “disputes between consumers and businesses concerning contractual obligations in sales or services contracts, both online and offline.”
These disputes are commonly in the area of complaints around the outcome of a wager or how a gambling operator handles a consumer’s account, such as restricting or impeding the withdrawal of funds by a consumer from their account.
Disputes in this category may also include issues with the delivery of bonuses and free play. These incentives designed to attract consumers to gambling sites have become a popular marketing tool, and the aggregation of such information has spawned a ancillary industry with sites such as Casino Professor providing information and reviews for consumers to keep track of the incentives on offer.
The ADR process is also the appropriate way for consumers to lodge complaints about the fairness of online gambling games, protecting children and other vulnerable people from the effects of gambling and preventing gambling from being used for criminal activity such as money laundering.
Consumers should be aware that there are two distinct types of ADR: mediation and adjudication.
Mediation is a process by which the ADR provider works with the gambling provider and the consumer that brought the complaint to reach an amicable solution. With mediation, both parties to the dispute must agree upon the resolution.
Adjudication is more similar to bringing the matter before a court in that an independent arbitrator is charged with reviewing the pertinent facts surrounding a complaint, and then that arbitrator reaches a decision that is binding on both parties. It is common in adjudication that one side is viewed as having won and the other lost, as opposed to mediation where both parties agree on the outcome.