UK gambling operators face stiff fines for breaching ad codes


uk-gambling-commission-license-changesUK gambling operators could face stiff financial penalties for breaching advertising rules, according to proposed changes to their licensing conditions.

On Thursday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) unveiled its proposed changes to license condition and codes of practice (LCCP) for UK gambling operators. Stakeholders and members of the public have until April 22 to submit their opinions on the proposed new rules of the road (viewable in full here).

The changes come as the UKGC is imposing its new vision of a ‘fairer’ gambling market, with an emphasis on a consumer-friendly approach and a zero-tolerance policy toward social responsibility shortcomings.

Among the highlights are a change in licensees’ adherence to socially responsible (SR) marketing activity. Whereas the previous LCCP said that licensees “should” comply with UK Advertising Codes, licensees are now told they “must” comply with codes issued by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).

The net result of this shift from an Ordinary code provision to the new SR code provision means violators could face “the full range of [the UKGC’s] regulatory powers,” including stiff financial penalties, if their ads are deemed out of bounds.

With regards to marketing pitches containing misleading bonus or ‘free bet’ offers, the old LCCP’s wording that “licensees must satisfy themselves” that their marketing isn’t misleading has been changed to read “licensees must ensure” that it’s not misleading.

Furthermore, all “significant conditions” related to these offers must be “provided transparently and prominently to consumers.” If space prevents listing all the conditions, operators must “clearly indicate” that conditions apply and online operators must ensure that these conditions are displayed in full “no further than one click away.”

Operators will be forbidden to contact consumers via direct electronic marketing without their informed and specific consent, and operators will have to provide “evidence which establishes that consent.” Opportunities to withdraw consent must be provided and woe to any operator who contacts a consumer after consent is withdrawn.

Last year’s affiliate shenanigans resulted in a change in third-party responsibility. The old LCCP’s “licensees must take responsibility for the actions of third parties” has been changed to “licensees are responsible” for activity by their affiliate partners.

Operators will also face an eight-week window in which to resolve customer complaints before the matter is referred to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider. Records of customer complaints and disputes must be kept in case the UKGC or (perish the thought) the courts want to see them.

It’s been two years since the most recent LCCP update and in that time UK regulators of all stripes have been taking a closer look at the gaming industry, clearly signaling that the era of taking consumers for granted is over.