Q: Why has IBAS published a report covering disputes considered in the period 1st October 2015 to 30th September 2016?
A: All organisations that were approved as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entities are required to publish an annual activity report covering the same precise factual criteria. The report covers the first full year of IBAS’s approval by the Gambling Commission as a gambling-specialist ADR entity.
Q: How does the number of requests for adjudication in 2015/16 compare to previous 12 month periods?
Q: To what does IBAS attribute the growth in dispute numbers?
A: The ADR approval scheme itself, combined with new laws requiring operators to hold a British gambling licence, has resulted in a significant increase in operators registering with IBAS. We also feel that there is a growing awareness of consumer rights and - when combined with new requirements on gambling operators to clarify their dispute resolution procedures - hopefully it shows that consumers are finding it easier to understand their options if they’re not happy with the way they have been treated.
Over 2,000 disputes during the statistical recording year relate to promotions and bonuses offered, largely by online bookmakers and gaming operators. Issues relating to the transparency of terms governing the now ubiquitous 'welcome bonus' are currently under consideration by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
In October 2015 the Consumer Rights Act was introduced in the UK. The Gambling Commission has asked ADR bodies such as IBAS to consider the Act and the fairness of operator terms as part of our adjudication process. During the past year IBAS has considered more cases of potential unfairness that would have previously been referred to a regulatory body. IBAS considers those cases using the CMA's own guidance notes on unfair terms, the 2008 Consumer Protection Regulations and the CAP and BCAP codes of conduct for gambling advertisements.
In the betting sector, we saw a one-off sharp spike in cases in the weeks following the Cheltenham Festival that accounted for some 800-900 disputes, the majority of which were either conceded or withdrawn by the customer (probably having been conceded).
Q: What is the financial impact of adjudications in favour of customer or operator concessions?
A: IBAS applies the same principles to disputes of all values, but we do record the sums involved. The total sums paid to customers as a result of disputes referred to IBAS are as follows:
2016: £338,054 (to end September – does not include Cheltenham cases referred to above)
Q: What recommendations arising out 2015/6 disputes would IBAS make to consumers?
A: We will shortly launch a new website covering different areas of betting and gambling in more detail, but our recommendations would include:
1) If you're unhappy with the way that a bet or game has been treated try to find a resolution to the dispute with the company’s customer service department (or appropriate others) before referring the case to IBAS. Resolving the dispute with the company will be quicker and easier if it is possible. If the gambling operator makes you a settlement offer that you consider unacceptable, keep a record of it if possible and advise us of the details when submitting your request for adjudication.
2) When accepting an online account bonus or agreeing to participate in a special offer, make sure to read the terms and conditions that govern it. If the promotion runs over a period of time, consider taking a screenshot of the terms so you can refer back to them at a later date if you need to.
3) When betting, if the odds on offer seem just too good to be true – in your best judgement – to the point that they are likely to have been offered in error, consider whether you would still want to place the bet if those odds were corrected in accordance with standard betting industry practice to the market price at the time of settlement.
4) When betting at the counter of a betting shop, if you want to take a price on your selection, make sure the cashier marks it on so that the price appears on your printed receipt. Prices written in pen on the receipt are not stored on the image file of the bet retained in the bookmaker's records and so it is impossible to determine who wrote that price on the receipt and when; similarly, an unfulfilled verbal request to take a price that has not been completed is extremely difficult to prove at a later date. If you are placing an each-way ante-post bet, ask the cashier to check and mark the applicable each way terms on the slip, as well as the prices of the selections.
5) If you place a shop bet immediately before or after the start of a race, check with the cashier afterwards whether your bet was processed 'in time' or whether you are entitled to a refund. If in any doubt, ask the bookmaker to provide you with a precise ‘no more bets’ cut off time so the matter can be referred to customer services and then to IBAS.
6) If you are playing in a bingo club, the standard rules of bingo place the onus on you to make sure that your claim is heard and that the game does not progress to the next number. Take whatever steps you need to make sure that your claim can be heard even if your voice is not!
7) When visiting a betting shop and writing bets on a plain betting slip, take care to check that the instructions are clear and not open to more than one interpretation. Use horse or greyhound names (i.e. instead of numbers) wherever possible to reduce the possibility of confusion.
8) If playing online live casino games such as roulette, keep an eye on whether your bets are being accepted for every game. Monitor your balance at each spin of the wheel. Registering bets on the screen does not necessarily mean that they have been registered on the casino software. If there are any problems, check with the company’s customer service or technical support teams, as carrying on playing risks disappointment when you think you are entitled to a good win.
9) Avoid making account payments using cards belonging to third parties – even those of your partner or another family member. Even with their permission, doing so may breach the terms of the website and risk invalidating your winnings. If there is a good reason why you need to use someone else’s card, contact the customer service team to seek specific permission to use it.
10) Don’t rely on cash-out offers being available when deciding to place a bet. The cash-out mechanism is often either temporarily or permanently unavailable in certain events and matches. Even if you can demonstrate a regular record of cashing out other bets, it is impossible for our Panel to know how or when you would have cashed out had you been able to.
From BBC Sport