Legal

Court upholds French regulator’s authority over consumer protection

| By Daniel O'Boyle
A French court has confirmed regulator L'Autorité nationale des Jeux’s (ANJ) authority to take action against operators that breach the country’s Consumer Code, following a 2019 challenge filed by operator association AFJEL (Association française du jeu en line).

The case dates back to April 2019, when ANJ’s predecessor for regulating the online market, L’Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL) took action against a number of operators.

These licensees were found to have breached France’s Consumer Code, by offering unfair terms and conditions to players. ARJEL warned that these companies could face legal action as a result.

However, AFJEL disputed this, arguing that the Consumer Code did not apply to gambling. AFJEL also sought to secure €4,000 in damages from ARJEL.

A decision on the matter was made almost two years later by the French Council of State, by which point ANJ had taken over as France’s unified gambling regulator.

The Council ruled that operators may be considered as “professionals”, and players as “consumers”, meaning online gambling may be considered a consumer service, as covered by the Consumer Code.

It said that AFJEL’s challenge was therefore unjustified. As a result, the ANJ has the power to take legal action against licensees which continue to include unfair terms and conditions for players.

“ANJ, which makes the protection of players a central axis of its work, welcomes this decision of the Council of State which will allow it in particular to initiate action in the event that it observes violations of consumer law that undermine the protection the state grants to the player in his capacity as consumer,” the regulator said.

Since its creation, the ANJ has put a particular focus on responsible marketing. In its first annual marketing review, it said it had “serious concerns” about the marketing strategies of lottery operator La Française des Jeux (FDJ) and racing monopoly Pari-Mutuel Urbain (PMU).

In 2020, online gambling revenue in France came to €1.74bn, as the market recovered strongly from the disruption of the opening six months of the year in H2

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