The Gambling Commission has updated its licence conditions and codes of practice with a view to strengthening requirements on gambling operators in respect of advertising and consumer law.
Of particular note is that operators will be expected to comply with UK Advertising Codes, including the CAP Code and could face unlimited fines for infringements such as glamorising gambling or promoting games to children. Although the Advertising Standards Authority will remain the lead regulator for enforcing UK Adverting Codes, the changes still represent a marked difference from the previous position where the Gambling Commission would only issue fines for misleading advertising. There were concerns voiced in the industry over the potential subjectivity in the ASA’s rulings, but the Commission has stated that it is working closely with the ASA to ensure a consistent approach towards compliance and enforcement and further guidance is expected later this year.
The changes also mean that action can be taken against firms that send "spam" marketing emails or texts. Operators will be required to obtain informed and specific consent from consumers and to ensure that future communications are not made if consent is withdrawn. The introduction of the GDPR has already caused firms to review practices in this area, but operators should be aware of the potential for enforcement from both the Gambling Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Given that operators remain responsible for the actions of third party affiliates, including marketing affiliates, the tougher enforcement regime should prompt greater scrutiny of these relationships. It remains important to ensure proper due diligence is conducted on any potential partners and appropriate contractual protections are put in place to mitigate the impact of fines.
The Commission is also introducing measures to make it easier for it to take action where an operator breaches rules covering consumer notices, changes to customer contracts and unfair commercial practices. The updated code also provides for a better complaints process for customers that sets an eight-week deadline for issues to be resolved by operators.
The changes will take effect from 31 October 2018.