Gambling Commission to review withdrawal policies after high volume of complaints

United Kingdom

The Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) has announced that it will be reviewing its withdrawal policies after receiving a high volume of complaints from consumers.

Why are the Commission reviewing withdrawal policies?

The Commission has received over 6,000 calls from consumers in the past year regarding withdrawal issues. These complaints have included long processing times and the requirement for consumers to provide additional information to operators before withdrawals can be processed.

The Commission said that data provided by some of the largest gambling companies highlighted firms “approve, process and fulfil around 99 percent of customer withdrawal requests within 20 to 48 hours of the request being made”. The Commission argues that even though only 1% of withdrawals are slow, this could still disrupt many consumers, given that over 20 million people gamble every four weeks.

The Commission explained that it understands there are valid reasons why withdrawals may be delayed, such as expired debit cards, external banking processes, or operators needing to be certain that their businesses are not in receipt of proceeds of crime. However, the Commission warned that it is unacceptable for operators to introduce "friction" when a customer tries to withdraw from their account.

How the Commission plan to help consumers and gambling companies

The Commission is taking steps to help both consumers and gambling companies in the future.

  1. The Commission has implemented a Business Plan commitment this year to review and update its approach to tackling non-compliance related to fair and transparent terms, including processing of customer withdrawals.
  2. The Commission has published its expectations of gambling companies regarding withdrawals. This document sets out some key expectations of gambling companies in respect of consumer rights, including that operators must inform consumers that they are allowed to withdraw their deposit balance at any time.
  3. The Commission updated its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice in 2019 to make clear that operators should verify a customer’s identity before permitting them to gamble and that any information necessary to verify the identity should not be requested as a condition of withdrawal. This means that an operator is unable to request additional information from a customer as a condition of withdrawal. Equally, any information the operator requests from the customer to identify whether they are at risk of gambling-related harm should not be used to delay withdrawal of funds.

More generally, the Commission has advised operators to continue to comply with and observe consumer protection laws, in particular the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which extend to both the operator’s terms and conditions, and their practices.

Next Steps

The Commission is reviewing the withdrawal policies of all licensed gambling operators in the UK. According to the Commission, the review will consider whether the current regulatory framework around withdrawals is sufficient to protect consumers or whether there is a need to strengthen it. The Commission suggested they will also continue to monitor complaints and share any lessons learned from the review.

Co-authored by Louise Marchington, trainee solicitor at CMS