UK Gambling Commission - another ineffective can't-be-bothered-to-regulator?

thelawnet

Dormant account
I wrote to the UK Gambling Commission on 19th March 2015.

My complaint was in relation to Mansion Group of casinos, and their 'dormant account' terms.

Under Mansion's terms, they will confiscate 5% (minimum $15) of your balance after six months with no play, and a further 5% every month until 12 months, whereupon they will size all of the customer's money. This could amount to several thousand pounds in 'dormant account fees'.

The UKGC provides
• 7.1 – Licensees must satisfy themselves that the terms on which gambling is offered are not unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and, where applicable, meet the reasonableness test under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and must comply with those terms

My complaint was that Mansion's term is blatantly unfair within the meaning of the Unfair Terms Regulations, given that they only advise the player of dormancy by email, which is not a reliable means of communication (and which in my case I did not receive), and that any fees should be at most £1 or £2 a month, not £500.

I suggested that the UKGC act to remove this from Mansion's terms.

Their response arrived yesterday, 15th April 2015, and was as follows:

"The Commission requires that all terms and conditions must meet the requirements of the Unfair Contract Terms Act., whether a term is acceptable is something that only the courts can decide.

Mansion Group have clearly presented the terms on which a player transacts with them and ultimately the choice whether to accept these terms lies with the individual player."

This is an inadequate response:

* the Unfair Contract Terms Act is not the main piece of legislation covering this are - the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations are different, and more important, but they do not mention these (and soon, the Consumer Rights Act 2015). It suggests that those handling this are not properly familiar with the law.
* it is not true that the courts are the only body that can decide this, in fact the Competition and Markets Authority has this legal power, but they would generally not consider complaints from a consumer, but would from the Gambling Commission, for example. Again this suggests a lack of legal competence from the UKGC.
* it is not necessarily true that terms are 'clearly presented'. They are on a separate page and the courts have recognised that small print is not going to be studied in detail. Again this suggests a lack of legal competence from the UKGC.

Moreover, if I were to take Mansion to court, there are the following possibilities:

* out-of-court settlement, no need for them to change their terms
* goes to court, I win - it would be a small claims court, there's no legal precedent set, still no need for Mansion to claim

So in effect, as the Gambling Commission are refusing to act or investigate, their Code of Practice is meaningless and offers no consumer protection at all. They took four weeks to say 'don't bother us, we don't care'.
 

conker

Senior Member
webmeister
CAG
MM
Hmm, this isn't very good news. You would like to think they would fight your corner in this type of situation.

I had a similar run in with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), who made me feel like my enquiry about dubious credit cards was completely pointless and not to darken their door again. Followed up with a rather 'How did we do?' questionnaire, possibly their to make you feel like they care. What's worse is all these pen pushers are very well paid and seem to have a great deal of contempt for anyone daring to raise a concern.
 

thelawnet

Dormant account
It seems like a straightforward case to me, certainly. For example, in the area of banking, the unfair terms laws have been used to say for instance that penalties levied by banks in excess of the costs incurred are unlawful. E.g., if it costs a bank £8 if I pay my credit card late, but they impose a £30 default charge, than that is unfair.

Here, the charge is way, way beyond that - hundreds of pounds per month in penalties for not placing a bet. I can see the UKGC declining to get involved in some cases where there is sharp practice by the player, or something, but this is a simple case of 'unfair terms', and they don't care

I agree with you about regulators fobbing people off - in the past I attempted to communicate with Trading Standards, and they fobbed me off. That I could understand, since the internet/ebay has brought massively increased levels of fraud/scams, and I doubt their staffing has increased accordingly.

Here however the UKGC's cost should be funded by the industry itself - this is not a case of general taxation being required to increase funding.
 

dunover

Unofficial T&C's Editor
Staff member
webmeister
PABnonaccred
PABnononaccred
CAG
mm3
This yet another example of a QUANGO staffed by Police/Civil Service retirees doing another 10 years' pensionable work. They tick the boxes on the applications and provide the CV but have little or no relevant experience which means areas have no expert input. It reminds me of court cases that require expert or professional witnesses as the Police or CPS are lacking in knowledge or experience.
Winning a CCJ under the Unfair Terms legislation could set a precedent and if contested by Mansion Group could indeed lead to a case-in-law should you win. The UKGC's reply to you suggests an employee has simply trawled the internet for a sliver of legal excuse and hasn't the wherewithal to actively make a considered decision or opinion on whether Unfair Contract laws have been breached. The UKGC hasn't even attempted to establish what real cost a dormant account is to a casino, if at all. With that in mind it's hardly surprising they can't make an informed decision.

Basically, it's a: "You may be right mate but we neither have the will nor resources to confirm yea or nay. We couldn't really care less what term Mansion have included as you agreed to it. If it is unlawful or potentially unlawful it's up to you to establish at your effort and expense. Obviously when you've done all this we will take the outcome on board, dust-off our keyboards and tack an e-mail or letter together and send it to the casinos concerned. Job done."
 

Nicola

Meister Member
mm1
I've only once been in contact with the UKGC and that was in relation to 32Red's lack of player protection for responsible gaming. Their response was very sarcastic and they basically refused to take on my concern/complaint.
 

redsfan

Experienced Member
webby
This yet another example of a QUANGO staffed by Police/Civil Service retirees doing another 10 years' pensionable work. They tick the boxes on the applications and provide the CV but have little or no relevant experience which means areas have no expert input. It reminds me of court cases that require expert or professional witnesses as the Police or CPS are lacking in knowledge or experience.
Winning a CCJ under the Unfair Terms legislation could set a precedent and if contested by Mansion Group could indeed lead to a case-in-law should you win. The UKGC's reply to you suggests an employee has simply trawled the internet for a sliver of legal excuse and hasn't the wherewithal to actively make a considered decision or opinion on whether Unfair Contract laws have been breached. The UKGC hasn't even attempted to establish what real cost a dormant account is to a casino, if at all. With that in mind it's hardly surprising they can't make an informed decision.

Basically, it's a: "You may be right mate but we neither have the will nor resources to confirm yea or nay. We couldn't really care less what term Mansion have included as you agreed to it. If it is unlawful or potentially unlawful it's up to you to establish at your effort and expense. Obviously when you've done all this we will take the outcome on board, dust-off our keyboards and tack an e-mail or letter together and send it to the casinos concerned. Job done."
Unfortunately, precedents can not be made in county court. Has to be at least the Mercantile court in the UK
 

dunover

Unofficial T&C's Editor
Staff member
webmeister
PABnonaccred
PABnononaccred
CAG
mm3
Unfortunately, precedents can not be made in county court. Has to be at least the Mercantile court in the UK
Yes I know - I said 'if contested' which means that expert opinion is summoned by both sides and moves to higher adjudication. The fact remains the UKGC will not be willing to make a legal interpretation of any terms themselves, for whatever reason.
 

vinylweatherman

You type well loads
CAG
MM
It will probably take several successful claims from players to force the equivalent of a "super complaint" of the form that eventually forced the issue of bank charges to a higher court in order to clarify the law and set a precedent.

In general, fees must in some way represent the actual costs incurred as in law a private business cannot levy arbitrary fines, nor arbitrarily help themselves to something that doesn't belong to them, like a customers' money. The energy companies have already tried the latter, but recently the regulator has caught up with them and delivered a very firm set of rapped knuckles, fines, and now they have to actively trace affected customers and give back the money. The energy companies were effectively doing the same as casinos by keeping any credit left in an account after a customer had switched supplier in the hope that the customer would not realise and ask for it back.

The percentage fee is probably a problem here as it blatantly has nothing to do with their costs, but is clearly designed to drain an account over a given period of time no matter how high the balance. Had they stated a fixed fee of $15 per month, this would most likely be OK.

Another hurdle would be that they would be asked to demonstrate that they had made "reasonable endeavours" to return the balance to the customer, and sending ONE email just does not cut it.

I would be surprised if casinos made significant sums from such a practice as I am sure no sensible player would knowingly abandon a large amount in a casino they had little intention of playing again.

Casinos could also clash with the law where they are able to take a large amount of money because a player had died. The money would always belong to the estate of the player, and would be recoverable by his beneficiaries. Every player here should bear in mind that if they were to die, whoever looks after their estate would need a means to find out where some of the money might be located. Traditional means do not work well in the online casino industry, and this is probably an issue the various regulators need to address as it would seem to need some kind of central place for executors of an estate to make enquiries against when dealing with the estate. Casinos should also bear this in mind in the rare event that they are OWED money by a player who suddenly stops logging in or answering the phone and emails.
 

dunover

Unofficial T&C's Editor
Staff member
webmeister
PABnonaccred
PABnononaccred
CAG
mm3
It will probably take several successful claims from players to force the equivalent of a "super complaint" of the form that eventually forced the issue of bank charges to a higher court in order to clarify the law and set a precedent.

In general, fees must in some way represent the actual costs incurred as in law a private business cannot levy arbitrary fines, nor arbitrarily help themselves to something that doesn't belong to them, like a customers' money. The energy companies have already tried the latter, but recently the regulator has caught up with them and delivered a very firm set of rapped knuckles, fines, and now they have to actively trace affected customers and give back the money. The energy companies were effectively doing the same as casinos by keeping any credit left in an account after a customer had switched supplier in the hope that the customer would not realise and ask for it back.

The percentage fee is probably a problem here as it blatantly has nothing to do with their costs, but is clearly designed to drain an account over a given period of time no matter how high the balance. Had they stated a fixed fee of $15 per month, this would most likely be OK.

Another hurdle would be that they would be asked to demonstrate that they had made "reasonable endeavours" to return the balance to the customer, and sending ONE email just does not cut it.

I would be surprised if casinos made significant sums from such a practice as I am sure no sensible player would knowingly abandon a large amount in a casino they had little intention of playing again.

Casinos could also clash with the law where they are able to take a large amount of money because a player had died. The money would always belong to the estate of the player, and would be recoverable by his beneficiaries. Every player here should bear in mind that if they were to die, whoever looks after their estate would need a means to find out where some of the money might be located. Traditional means do not work well in the online casino industry, and this is probably an issue the various regulators need to address as it would seem to need some kind of central place for executors of an estate to make enquiries against when dealing with the estate. Casinos should also bear this in mind in the rare event that they are OWED money by a player who suddenly stops logging in or answering the phone and emails.
So if I were to have a mental breakdown, then go and play St*rb*rst and expire through boredom and despair during the session it would have been prudent to have left a will and testament with my casino username/passwords contained therein in order for the trustees to retrieve any outstanding balances?
 

cmonchels

Dormant account
It might be worth a crack taking this to Martin Lewis (If you don't know, he's The 'Money Saving Expert'), he's very up on consumer rights and customer protection and can have a big influence on getting thing's changed when company's are taking the piss in their T&C's and not making absolutely clear and simple for everyone to see and understand, he has built a high profile reputation and, for example - is responsible for the new laws on the way Payday loan company's go about the way they operate.

I'm sure him/his people would kick up a fuss regarding the UKGC's responseattitude etc, just a thought.
 

thelawnet

Dormant account
This yet another example of a QUANGO staffed by Police/Civil Service retirees doing another 10 years' pensionable work. They tick the boxes on the applications and provide the CV but have little or no relevant experience which means areas have no expert input. It reminds me of court cases that require expert or professional witnesses as the Police or CPS are lacking in knowledge or experience.
Winning a CCJ under the Unfair Terms legislation could set a precedent and if contested by Mansion Group could indeed lead to a case-in-law should you win. The UKGC's reply to you suggests an employee has simply trawled the internet for a sliver of legal excuse and hasn't the wherewithal to actively make a considered decision or opinion on whether Unfair Contract laws have been breached. The UKGC hasn't even attempted to establish what real cost a dormant account is to a casino, if at all. With that in mind it's hardly surprising they can't make an informed decision.

Basically, it's a: "You may be right mate but we neither have the will nor resources to confirm yea or nay. We couldn't really care less what term Mansion have included as you agreed to it. If it is unlawful or potentially unlawful it's up to you to establish at your effort and expense. Obviously when you've done all this we will take the outcome on board, dust-off our keyboards and tack an e-mail or letter together and send it to the casinos concerned. Job done."
Actually, I googled the lady who responded to my case, and she was up on some sort of 'apprentice of the year' scheme in 2013 (at the UKGC), so it looks like more a case of them taking on under qualified staff than pensioning off old police on a fat salary.
 

Deeplay

New World Order
webmeister
CAG
mm1
Well basically at the moment the UKGC is sizing up to be utterly useless when it comes to any kind of player protection or rights. Rather than it been a seal of approval and safe fair game play they are just allowing casinos to make there own terms. So if it is the terms then it is deemed ok (even if it goes against UK consumer law and protection) which is shoddy at times anyway. the 666 debacle is making the UKGC look like a joke. But I suppose from the UKGcs pov its a good thing with the massive license fees they impost on operators and the taxation gained. Why bother about the Joe public. As in England they will only be forced to act if they are enough robust complaints and challenges. The license as it stands at the moment is not worth the E-Paper it is written on from the players perspective. As I now know if a UK registered casino for what ever reason goes off line and I have funds locked in there then I may as well wave them goodbye. Thank the lord I am moving to pastures greener again very soon :cool: Denmark is calling me )))
 

vinylweatherman

You type well loads
CAG
MM
It might be worth a crack taking this to Martin Lewis (If you don't know, he's The 'Money Saving Expert'), he's very up on consumer rights and customer protection and can have a big influence on getting thing's changed when company's are taking the piss in their T&C's and not making absolutely clear and simple for everyone to see and understand, he has built a high profile reputation and, for example - is responsible for the new laws on the way Payday loan company's go about the way they operate.

I'm sure him/his people would kick up a fuss regarding the UKGC's responseattitude etc, just a thought.
He already has a section on this on his forum. It has some "money saving tips" that some casinos would go as far as to say were "condoning fraud" as they discuss how to maximise the odds with new player offers. They are just as ruthless as with careless retail promotions, and may be one reason why the UK has been branded the "fraud capital" by some online casinos.

However, it would need a number of his forum regulars to become victims, such as with the payday loan issues, for there to be enough weight behind a drive for change.

We are still in the stalling stage over 666 as the UKGC says there is no reason for them not paying, whilst 666 are saying that by suspending their licence, the UKGC have effectively stripped 666 of the means to pay it's players, but that as soon as the licence is restored, they will be able to open up the site to enable players to withdraw their money if they don't want to play there any longer.

As for the death of a player, it's one of those things that most people don't consider because they know all their passwords etc. With a list, someone else could simply log in and withdraw the cash and/or check the status of the account, and would know which subset of casinos to look at. Without this, it's possible that the person looking after the estate won't even know that the deceased played online, let alone where to look for assets. This could result in money being abandoned to the casinos, and no one will know how much this happens. There would be a way to research this, but it would require online casinos to release data on dormant accounts where funds were forfeit to the casino so that a researcher could check these against the register of deaths in order to see how much of this was due to a player's death, as opposed to carelessness in retrieving their funds.

I dealt with my dad's estate, and I had to look for any money that might be recoverable, and this included checking for any outstanding bets down at the bookies that needed cashing in (I found none, he marked the horses, but never made it down to bet). He didn't even own a computer, so I didn't have to consider online bookies, but this is rapidly changing as more and more people bet online.

I DO have a list of all the casino accounts I have ever opened, so it's a start, but I tend not to leave money sitting around so only a couple of them will have anything in them. My family all know I play, so ignorance is no excuse for them not considering the possibility of there being money in there.
 

sscrabble

Full Member
I have put a note a note at the bottom of my will with login info - I am presuming that they can just ask the casinos to transfer any balances in the casino back to the bank account or service you usually use to pay in -- is that the case , or do they have to produce copies of death certificates etc.. Anyone had experience of this?
 

thelawnet

Dormant account
Well basically at the moment the UKGC is sizing up to be utterly useless when it comes to any kind of player protection or rights. Rather than it been a seal of approval and safe fair game play they are just allowing casinos to make there own terms. So if it is the terms then it is deemed ok (even if it goes against UK consumer law and protection) which is shoddy at times anyway.
Yes tbh they don't necessarily need to put a fancy lawyer on this, one approach from them would be:

Dear Mansion Group,

You will be aware that the UKGC Code of Practice requires that terms comply with the Unfair Contract Terms legislation. One of your players has suggested that Clause 11 of your terms is unfair, because it imposes unreasonable fees on dormant accounts.

Could you please consider whether you agree that this term is unfair. If you believe it is fair, provide your rationale for this. If it is unfair, remove it from your terms and refund the players that have been charged.

Regards,

UKGC
 

thelawnet

Dormant account
It might be worth a crack taking this to Martin Lewis (If you don't know, he's The 'Money Saving Expert'), he's very up on consumer rights and customer protection and can have a big influence on getting thing's changed when company's are taking the piss in their T&C's and not making absolutely clear and simple for everyone to see and understand, he has built a high profile reputation and, for example - is responsible for the new laws on the way Payday loan company's go about the way they operate.

I'm sure him/his people would kick up a fuss regarding the UKGC's responseattitude etc, just a thought.

Entirely coincidentally they have today published an article on this issue.

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They are only talking about £3/month though!
 

Matti

Senior Member
MM
This was actually better before UKGC. MGA states a maximum om €5 per month for dormant accounts. It is not up to the casino to charge whatever they feel like.
 

Casinomeister

Forum Cheermeister
Staff member
Yes tbh they don't necessarily need to put a fancy lawyer on this, one approach from them would be:

Dear Mansion Group,

You will be aware that the UKGC Code of Practice requires that terms comply with the Unfair Contract Terms legislation. One of your players has suggested that Clause 11 of your terms is unfair, because it imposes unreasonable fees on dormant accounts.

Could you please consider whether you agree that this term is unfair. If you believe it is fair, provide your rationale for this. If it is unfair, remove it from your terms and refund the players that have been charged.

Regards,

UKGC
A little bit of communication paired with tact and logic can go a long way in this industry. Old timers like you, me and our brethren know full well that most licensing jurisdictions are ill-equipped to handle some of the most simplest complaints. At the moment, Kahnawake out shines everyone - they were schooled at the university of "hard knocks." It seems that not many people have used them as an example on how to deal with players.

And why am I not surprised? Most licensing jurisdictions are more concerned about gaining clients than dealing with player issues like yours. I've been to a number of conferences this past year, and I have yet to meet anyone from the UKGC.

This is very disappointing - I hope that they can pull it together. Properly dealing with players is not rocket science.
 

IanO

Regular Human
... This could amount to several thousand pounds in 'dormant account fees'....
... any fees should be at most £1 or £2 a month, not £500....
Just to pop this in perspective... they are talking about a 5% charge if you don't log in and play for 6 months. In your above example of a £500 charge... that means the player must have had £10,000 in a casino account that what... they just forgot about for half a year? How likely do you really think that is?

I would speculate that the vast majority of customers who have funds confiscated as a result of this rule would have 2 digit balances (at most) and this is nothing more than a housekeeping tool.

Maybe it's just me, but this almost seems like a deliberate attempt to make a mountain of a molehill.

Question for the OP... did you actually have funds confiscated due to this rule, or are you just objecting to a hypothetical situation? If it's the latter I could not see any courts taking you too seriously.
 

thelawnet

Dormant account
Just to pop this in perspective... they are talking about a 5% charge if you don't log in and play for 6 months. In your above example of a £500 charge... that means the player must have had £10,000 in a casino account that what... they just forgot about for half a year? How likely do you really think that is?

I would speculate that the vast majority of customers who have funds confiscated as a result of this rule would have 2 digit balances (at most) and this is nothing more than a housekeeping tool.

Maybe it's just me, but this almost seems like a deliberate attempt to make a mountain of a molehill.

Question for the OP... did you actually have funds confiscated due to this rule, or are you just objecting to a hypothetical situation? If it's the latter I could not see any courts taking you too seriously.
I had a balance of £5,627 (I had requested a withdrawal but I didn't send in the ID documents) and they took £1273 over 3 or 4 months, without sending any warning.
 
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