Australia’s Federal Court has issued Bet365 with a fine of Aus$2.75 million (€1.8 million/US$2.4 million) after finding the online operator guilty of advertising a false ‘free bet’ offer.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, the Court said Bet365 had deceived punters in the country with an offer of ‘$200 free bets for new customers’ between March 2013 and January 2014.
The Court ruled that Bet365 had failed to prominently display the terms and conditions of the offer, which included that in order for customers to receive the free bet, they had to first deposit and gamble Aus$200 of their own money.
Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competitions and Consumer Commission, which took the operator to court, said he was “comfortable” with the fine, adding that it will “send a message” to other gambling companies active in Australia, with the regulator having identified other misleading behaviour.
“These penalties should serve as a warning to all businesses that is it not acceptable to promote ‘free’ offers as a headline offer without ensuring that any restrictions or limitations are disclosed in a prominent way,” Sims said.
“The Bet365 was the worst one; we're now writing to everybody saying: 'Look, it's clear you can't do this'.
“This is particularly relevant in an emerging industry like the online gambling market, where online and print advertisements target consumers who may not previously have used online gambling services.”
Bet365’s offer also included a number of other conditions such as a requirement for consumers to be eligible by first gambling three times their deposit and bonus within 90 days before withdrawing winnings, as well as having to bet on higher risk transactions.
The company has also been ordered to send a corrective notice to those affected by the offer, which the judge said amounted to a “significant proportion” of the 73,000 customers the operator had at the time of the breach.
In response, a Bet365 spokesman said the court acknowledged that the issue was linked with an unintentional software error.
The spokesman added: “Nevertheless, Bet365 regrets that, as a result of this error, it may not have adequately brought to the attention of customers’ terms and conditions associated with the promotion.
“Bet365 has introduced stricter compliance processes and controls, as well as improved staff training to prevent a similar issue arising again.”
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