The recent publication of three reports considering the regulation of gambling shows that the government’s review of gambling legislation is likely to begin soon.
IBAS is an independent non-profit organisation working to champion fairness in gambling and we welcome the fact that the protection of consumers featured prominently in all three reports. Two of them made the explicit recommendation that a Gambling Ombudsman should be established.
We emphatically share this belief. The Gambling Commission’s Standards and Guidelines for Alternative Dispute Resolution provided helpful direction for what was required from ADR in the gambling sector but it has quickly become apparent that a significant number of consumers will never receive an individual response because the nature of their complaint is classified as beyond our remit. Consumers whose claims are never personally addressed can reasonably feel unprotected by the mechanics of the current system.
Creating a framework for the consideration of claims that gambling businesses have treated customers without due care and responsibility will be complex and challenging, but it is a necessary step to ensure that consumers with complaints of that nature have the opportunity to receive redress without the cost and logistical complication of legal action.
It remains our view that ADR landscape would be simplified for everyone’s benefit by the creation of just one complaints handling body and we welcome the indications of the past fortnight that there is parliamentary support for the concept of an ombudsman.
Our disputes database contains over 75,000 examples of what has disappointed, frustrated, confused or angered gambling consumers over the past 20 years, making us better placed than anyone else to advise government on where improvements could and should be made. From just the past 12 months, we have almost 750 examples of cases that have had to be redirected to the Gambling Commission as regulatory complaints. Because of this current system, those consumers were not able to receive a decision from the IBAS adjudication process and have been left unsupported.
The creation of a Gambling Ombudsman with a remit which extends beyond the current ADR role will greatly enhance consumer protection and IBAS has in-depth experience and extensive and detailed knowledge to offer. We look forward to participating in and contributing to the review process.