Hills cleared over ‘bonus bagger’s’ ad complaint
William Hill has been cleared by the UK’s advertising watchdog over a complaint from a 'bonus-bagging' customer who the company had barred from receiving promotions.
The complainant was blocked from using promotions by Hills’ trading department during this year’s Fifa World Cup after receiving a total of 478 bonuses over the lifetime of the account. The bonuses amounted to more than £1,600, but they had only ever deposited £60.
The customer complained about a television advert aired during the latter stages of Russia 2018, on July 8, which stated “William Hill customers are getting more every day of the World Cup. With two extra bet boosts available on all World Cup matches”.
The complainant asked the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to investigate whether the claim “two extra bet boosts available on all World Cup matches” was misleading and could be substantiated, because they had stopped receiving them earlier in the competition.
However, Hills argued that the customer had been made aware on June 23 – two weeks before the advert aired – that their access to bonuses would be restricted.
ASA accepted the operator’s explanation that they ensured the commercial, approved by advertising compliance body Clearcast, did not claim that “all” customers were entitled to the offer, while small print said that restrictions applied.
In its ruling, ASA said: “We understood that there were individual circumstances that meant the complainant's account had been restricted and they had been notified that they were no longer entitled to receive bonuses.
“We considered that the particular restriction, which only applied to certain customers based on their individual circumstances, was not significant because those customers were likely to be aware of the restrictions that applied to them and, therefore, it was acceptable not to specifically reference it in the ad.
“We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.”
A William Hill spokesperson told iGamingBusiness.com that the company is “constantly upgrading [its] systems to make sure that bonus abuse becomes a thing of the past”.
“Clearly we are happy that the ASA have ruled in our favour,” he said. “There is no specific line where we adjudge a person to be ‘bonus-bagging’, as a result we look at any flagged account on a case-by-case basis.”
The ruling was the third in William Hill’s favour in the last year, with just one complaint to the ASA being upheld.
Last November, the body found in favour of Hills after a complaint that a five star rating given to its app by the Daily Record was not genuine. In July, the ASA dismissed a complaint that advertised odds for a fictional future football match were misleading.
However, in September the operator was found to have erred as an advert for a William Hill Vegas bonus popped up in an app, New MarioKart 8 Trick, that appealed to minors.
In July, Hills launched its ‘Nobody Harmed’ responsible gambling initiative after admitting to “falling below” the standards expected by the Gambling Commission, parliament and the general public.
At the time, Ciaran O’Brien, director of corporate communications at William Hill, said the bookmaker is “committed” to working with the ASA on implementing new rules on advertising that were introduced earlier this year.
“The new ASA code only came in in April and are subject to some interpretation so it may be that until we have some case history we won’t know what is covered by the code but if we have contravened it we will hold our hands up,” O’Brien told iGamingBusiness.com.