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Gambling Commission gets tough with new ad rules

| By iGB Editorial Team
RGA chief not surprised by changes as regulator vows to take “tougher action”

The Gambling Commission has today (Wednesday) published updated rules regarding advertising, pledging to take “tougher action” against gambling firms that breach regulations in the UK.

Devised after an open consultation, the commission said that the new set of rules “provide stronger protection for consumers and ensure they are treated fairly by gambling businesses”.

Set to come into effect from October 31 this year, the changes will make it easier for the commission to sanction operators that break advertising rules, including the ability to impose fines.

Gambling companies will also face action for advertising failings by third-party affiliates, while the commission can also punish operators that send ‘spam’ marketing emails or texts.

The commission also said the new rules will make it quicker and easier to react to breaches of consumer law, such as unfair and misleading practices.

In addition, companies will now have access to an improved complaints process, which will include an eight-week deadline to resolve such issues.

The move comes after the commission last month urged the UK industry to “step up” in order to help the regulator improve standards across the sector.

Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said that the latest changes “will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions, ensure that they can withdraw their money more easily, and will mean that firms have to deal with complaints more swiftly”.

Responding to today’s announcement, Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), told iGamingBusiness.com that while it is too early to assess the overall impact of the new requirements as a package, “none of these changes should come as a surprise to anyone”.

Hawkswood added: “The industry has already acknowledged the need for improvement in some of the key areas such as complaints-handling and the flaws previously identified by the Competition and Market Authority (CMA).”

In November, the Gambling Commission and CMA urged operators to review their terms and conditions to ensure consumers were being treated fairly. The CMA flagged up the fact that operators could be breaking consumer protection law by not making clear rules for their bonus promotions.

The CMA more recently called on gambling firms to stop running “unfair online promotions that trap players’ money”.

Hawkswood also told iGamingBusiness.com that although the RGA initially raised concerns about using regulatory powers to underpin the voluntary regulation system for campaigns overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), it shares the commission’s objective of “maximising compliance through improved guidance and transparency”.

He added: “There are many in the industry who continue to have reservations about the subjectivity that is inherent in many of the ASA’s rulings – for example, in determining what might be considered to be advertising that is ‘of particular appeal to children’ – but we are already working with them to get a better understanding of the decision-making processes.”

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