Below is some important information about the undertakings given by William Hill, Titanbet and Ladbrokes to the Competition and Markets Authority (the CMA).
The CMA and the Gambling Commission expect all online operators to adhere to the undertakings, to review their terms and practices and to implement any necessary changes. Each undertaking must be adhered to by 28 February 2018, with the exception of number 3 in each of the undertakings, which must be implemented by the later deadline of 31 July 2018. In the meantime, the CMA and the Gambling Commission have indicated that operators are expected to use short-term workaround solutions to reflect the practices required by undertaking number 3.
Failure to comply with the undertakings could lead to regulatory action from the CMA and/or the Gambling Commission.
We strongly advise that you read the undertakings in detail to understand exactly what is required. The undertakings include important definitions, for instance there is now a definition of 'significant conditions', including a non-exhaustive list of examples. The William Hill undertaking contains all of the same undertakings as Ladbrokes and Titanbet, save for undertaking number 14 (which is unique to William Hill).
Below we have summarised some key know-how which came out of a seminar hosted by the CMA and the Gambling Commission during the ICE Conference in London last week. We understand that slides of the CMA's presentation will be made available in due course:
- In respect of all of the undertakings, the CMA considers all operators to be jointly responsible for the marketing practices of their affiliates to the extent that the affiliate is also bound by the respective regulator (i.e. the CMA, Advertising Standards Agency and relevant consumer protection laws). In respect of the Gambling Commission's LCCP (to which the affiliate is not directly bound), the operator is held solely responsible for the marketing practices of their affiliates;
- Transparency (undertakings 1 to 3) – all significant conditions must be provided to consumers within the advert and with the headline offer, except where it is not possible to do so due to significant limitations on time and/or space (in which case, the remaining significant conditions and other terms relating to the promotion must be accessible within a single click). The CMA has made clear that the bar as to what qualifies as a "significant limitation on time and/or space" is set very high, and if those conditions which are undoubtedly significant cannot be displayed, the advert should not be run in that form;
- Restrictions on withdrawing deposit winnings (undertakings 4 to 6) – any term which restricts a consumer's access to winnings obtained using deposited funds (including the proportion attributed to deposited funds where winnings are generated from a mixture of bonus funds and deposited funds) will be of significant concern to the CMA. In the CMA's view, consumers retain a legal right to their deposited funds until they have been wagered (subject to any regulatory requirements e.g. AML) and that the general rule is that consumers are legally entitled to winnings as an enforceable debt;
- Promotional play restrictions (undertakings 7 to 9) – operators must not deem certain play strategies invalid or abusive after the event. Any terms and conditions setting out promotional play restrictions must not be vague or broadly drafted but must set out all prohibited types or patterns of play. Any terms which seek to reserve the operator's discretion to determine a breach of promotional play restrictions will not be acceptable; and
- Free bets (undertakings 10 to 12) – operators are not entitled to unilaterally remove or alter a consumer's entitlement to a free bet once a consumer has placed some or all of the necessary qualifying bets. Operators should ensure they meet consumers' expectation by honouring deals.
If you have any questions in respect of the undertakings, or concerns about your existing or pending practices, please do not hesitate contact us.