Australian Competition and Consumer Commission claims promos made "misleading representations" to punters
One of the industry's biggest online gambling operators, the Coates family's Bet365 group, is facing legal action Downunder from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which claims that the company's free bet or deposit bonus offers made "misleading representations" to punters in breach of Aussie consumer laws.
The case is at the pre-trial stage in a Darwin federal court, and was triggered by a public complaint to the ACCC.
The ACCC alleges that the Bet365 offers "…conveyed the general thrust or dominant message that new customers of Bet365 would be entitled to up to $200 in bets without limitation or restriction. In fact, the offers were subject to a number of such conditions that were not prominently displayed".
The consumer watchdog claims that Bet365 punters "…must first risk their own deposit to receive a free bet or deposit bonus, so that consumers would only receive a $200 free bet or deposit bonus if they paid and gambled $200 of their own money first.
Further, in order to be eligible for the offers, customers must have gambled three times the value of their deposit and bonus within 90 days before being able to withdraw any winnings.
"As a result, a consumer who made an initial deposit of $200 and received $200 in bets was required to then gamble $1,200 before being able to withdraw any money," the ACCC filing points out.
"To meet the free bet or deposit bonus terms and conditions, consumers were required to bet at odds of no less than 1.5, meaning that they were required to bet on higher risk transactions."
The consumer body also notes that since the inception of the case, Bet365 has changed its website content.
Court documents indicate that the ACCC seeks "…declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, a compliance program and costs from Bet365" in any court finding.
Answering the charges Wednesday, Bet365 legal representative Cameron Moore requested more clarity on the ACCC complaint ahead of the trial date at the end of this (March) month.
Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC, issued a statement noting that the online betting industry is a burgeoning business sector, and that Australian consumer law applies to this segment in a similar fashion to other industries.
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