Australia’s consumer watchdog has launched proceedings against the Australian division of UK betting powerhouse Bet365. On Thursday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accused three Bet365 Group companies of violating Australian Consumer Law via misleading representations in online bonus offers. The ACCC is asking the Federal Court of Australia for declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, a compliance program and costs.
The ACCC believes some ‘free bets’ and ‘deposit bonus’ offers on Bet365 sites failed to explicitly spell out their full terms and conditions. The ACCC purports to be shocked – shocked! – that deposit bonuses and free bet offers come with rollover requirements or limits on wagering odds. In the ACCC’s view, Bet365’s offers “conveyed the general thrust or dominant message” that the offers came “without limitation or restriction.” The matter is expected to reach court by October.
The ACCC acknowledges that Bet365 has altered its website since being contacted regarding the claims, but chairman Rod Sims channeled his inner Judge Dredd and insisted that rules were rules. “Any conditions, limitations or restrictions should be made clear to the consumer before the purchase rather than after a consumer has been unfairly enticed into a transaction.”
With respect, the ACCC seems to be taking an unduly harsh step. Tell them to do better next time, smack them on the wrist and move on. Frankly, we smell a government shakedown. Bet365 Australia may have lost $77m over the past two years but the parent company makes scads of it. We’re talking Scrooge McDuck money. Tony Abbot already hates online gambling and his government is struggling to reduce its ballooning deficit. Say no more.
Besides, the AGCC’s definition of ‘unfair’ seems a bit expansive, given that online T&C’s are rarely more than a click away for anyone who still believes in taking responsibility for one’s decisions. Lord knows, people who bet online will agree to just about anything, but still…
Presumably, Sims himself may have been unfairly enticed into foreswearing an option or two by mindlessly clicking ‘Agree’ every time he upgrades his iTunes (twice daily, if his experience mirrors our own). To this day, only a select few consumers know that by authorizing iTunes you have signed up for future harvesting by our alien overlords. Whose leader will be played by Ray Winstone in the movie.