The IBAS Panel will consider whether the terms or rules used to settle a transaction are fair.
Sometimes a rule that might feel unfair to either the consumer or operator will be upheld by the Panel. We believe that there is an important distinction between a rule that is unfair and an outcome of implementing a rule that is unfortunate.
A customer has bet on the home team to win a football match. With ten minutes to play, is winning 5-0 and comfortably outclassing their opposition.
However, a sudden downpour of rain causes the match not only to be suspended by the referee but subsequently abandoned. Under the rules of the league the match will not be resumed from the point of abandonment but must be replayed from the start at a later date.
The bookmaker’s rules stipulate that where a match is abandoned and no result is lodged with the league’s official governing body, all bets are made void.
The customer might well complain that applying this rule to this situation is unfair on him or her because it was beyond any reasonable doubt that all of their bets were on the verge of winning.
The IBAS view may be that although the customer was clearly extremely unfortunate, the rule is a fair one that – if already in place prior to the kick off of the match – must be applied equally and consistently. Those customers who bet on the away team would read the same rule and assert their entitlement to a refund of their bets, fully entitled to do so. They, of course, should consider themselves as fortunate as the home team-backers would feel unfortunate. But IBAS would not think the situation unfair on either party.
Alternatively, if a customer had bet on the away team in the same match to be winning at half-time and full-time on the ‘HT/FT result’ market, his bookmaker might have settled his bet as a loser at half-time on the basis that as it was already 2-0 to the home team his bet could not possibly be successful.
IBAS might say that it was unfair for the bookmaker to have settled the bet as a loser because, as it turned out, there was no successful double result outcome; the match was not played to a conclusion. It would follow that if there was no result there was no winning half-time/full-time prediction and if there was no winner there could be no losers. The bookmaker would be required to refund the aggrieved customer’s stake money and a rule that sought to keep the customer’s stake money in those circumstances would be considered unfair even though the customer would be most fortunate in circumstances where – without the intervention of rain – they could not possibly have won.
Where a customer complains that an advert placed by a gambling operator has misled them, the Panel will obtain an example of the advert and consider whether:
For example, we might consider that a newspaper advert which related to a betting shop promotion but which made the terms of the offer available only online was potentially unfair by being inaccessible to customers without internet access.
In considering disputes of this nature, the Panel will refer to the CAP and BCAP codes for gambling advertisements.
Where an advert or promotion is deemed to be misleading or unfair by the Panel, they will also be asked to consider the appropriate method of correction of the unfairness, which may involve settlement of the bet on the terms that the customer understood to apply or the cancellation of bets or games entered into on an apparently false premise.
Account opening offers for online casinos and bookmakers have gone from being common to practically standard. Most of these types of disputes relate to the terms that govern the account-opening offers. Many also relate to situations where an operator believes that one customer has opened or controlled more than one account which has redeemed an offer designed for ‘new customers only’.
When considering disputes concerning unfair bonus terms, the Panel will apply many of the same tests referred to in the Misleading or Unfair Advertisements section.
For disputes about minimum bonus ‘play-through’ or ‘churn’ requirements, i.e. the amount of gambling required by the operator before funds credited as ‘bonus money’ can be withdrawn as cash, the Panel will consider whether the formulae to determine how funds used in various games are weighted are accurately set out in the offer terms, which themselves need to be easily accessible. They will consider whether key terms, such as a maximum stake per game, (where betting is involved) maximum odds per selection or anything else which has the potential to invalidate the customer’s redemption of an offer have been displayed with sufficient accessibility and prominence to reflect their importance.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently conducting an investigation into potential unfair terms in online gambling. Bonus offers appear to be at the forefront of that investigation. The outcomes of that process, in particular any enforcement action taken against individual gambling operators in respect of specific unfair promotions or terms will inevitably help inform and shape the approach that IBAS and other gambling-specialist ADR bodies take in dealing with related disputes in the future.