UKGC 2017 Review of ADR Complaints process: summary and notes

UKGC - Big Ben and the Parliament

I’ve spent the better part of the last few days reading and discussing the UKGC’s recent “Complaints processes in the gambling industry: A review one year after the introduction of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme, March 2017” (http://live-gamblecom.cloud.contensis.com/PDF/Complaints-processes-in-the-gambling-industry.pdf). The Review is the UKGC’s first public assessment of their ADR complaints system and a fairly wide-ranging statement of their plans for the near future.

Let me begin by saying that the UKGC deserves everyone’s thanks for assembling and publishing this document. Since the UKGC is a government body it’s often pretty difficult to imagine where their heads are at in terms of policy plans and the reasoning behind what they do. This report pulls back the blinds a fair bit and I for one thank them for it.

Having read the Review over a couple times now I think it’s fair to say that there are three points above all that the Report was at pains to make:

  • the UKGC is not pleased with the current state of the ADR system and fairly sweeping changes are going to be made.
  • those changes are going to be made largely, though not entirely, based on public input that the UKGC has itself gathered, mostly in the form of complaints from the public about the ADR system and the gaming industry at large.
  • the UKGC wants deeper and more real-time insight into the complaints resolution process across the ADR system.

Changing The System

In terms of proposed changes to the ADR system these (broadly) fall into two areas: reducing the number of Accredited ADRs, and changing the rules for the UKGC’s approval of ADRs.

Regarding currently Accredited ADRs the Review says that the UKGC originally Accredited a number of ADRs in the hope that there would be open competition between them: “Competition between providers could also have driven up standards of ADR provision. … In practice, the anticipated competition has not materialised.” Having spoken to ThePOGG — one of the Accredited ADRs — several times over the last 18 months I know that they have repeatedly expressed frustration that the UKGC deliberately restricted operators from listing more than a single ADR on the grounds that this might cause “confusion” for consumers. How the UKGC squares their stated wish for competition with their directives forbidding it is unclear.

The end result is that the UKGC has determined that of the eleven ADRs currently Accredited only two, possibly three, are pulling their weight. The other eight ADRs are being eyed as good candidates for the chop. Why? Mostly because they handle a miniscule number of complaints per year — in some cases none at all — and therefor offer little to the UKGC or the consumers they are supposed to be serving. Furthermore the UKGC believes that their “customers” — to you and me that would read “players” — would be perfectly well served by three, two or even one ADR service. They cite other public sectors like Power & Gas as examples of where a very limited number of ADRs serves the consumer perfectly well.

As to the changing rules for ADRs things are a little less straightforward but suggested modifications include improving the “quality” of the decisions made by ADRs, improving ADR responsiveness to the consumer, and increasing the level of insight and guidance that ADRs provide to the UKGC.

Also, the UKGC wants the ADRs to put in place a system whereby complaints about the ADR will be accepted and processed by the ADR. In other words the UKGC doesn’t want to be responsible for handling complaints about their Accredited ADRs.

If you wanted to summarise this area of the report you could say that the UKGC wants to rid itself of some ADR deadwood and make the remaining ADRs better at what they do. And by “better” they mean make customers happier and have the ADRs work to improve the ADR system as a whole.

Public Input

Judging from the great frequency with which the Review mentions “public input” it’s resoundingly clear that the UKGC has been heavily influenced by the feedback they’ve received from consumers. Apparently they were contacted with complaints from the public 5169 times in 2016: complaints about the ADR system, complaints about the complaints process, complaints about the ADRs, etc.

Unfortunately the Review offers no deeper insight into the actual source and/or nature of the public’s feedback. In fact it is specifically and repeatedly stated that the UKGC doesn’t handle individual complaints or comment thereon. Presumably a complaint is a complaint is a complaint and they’re all grist for the mill when it comes to the UKGC taking guidance therefrom.

Real-Time Insight

The Review makes clear the fact that the UKGC wants the ADRs to provide more feedback on the ADR process and insight into the complaints they handle. They don’t feel that they are managing the complaints process closely enough — presumably they want to be able to react more meaningfully to those complaints they receive from the public — and they have a two-pronged approach to dealing with that.

The first step towards closer complaints and/or ADR management is to make use of an online complaints service called Resolver.co.uk. Resolver is apparently targeted at consumer services like Gas & Power, airlines, banks, etc, though the Review says they believe that Resolver can be tailored (to a degree) to be useful to the online gaming industry. The UKGC’s idea appears to be to use Resolver as the front line for complaints about online gaming in order to have third-party info on when complaints are received, which ADR is handling a given complaint and so forth. As the Review states the ADRs themselves are generally not providing that kind of tracking information and so the UKGC is turning to Resolver to get it.

The second part of the “insight” process falls to the ADRs. The UKGC is apparently disappointed that the ADRs don’t provide feedback and insight into the complaints that they are handling and the UKGC believes that such information would be helpful to them. They’re unclear what they’re going to do to define and obtain the information they want but they’ve clearly identified it as a goal they’re working toward.

What next?

The UKGC and its ADRs have a big meeting in May where everyone will sit around the table and (presumably) try to find a workable plan for a way forward. Having said that the Review itself says that the UKGC is prepared to take fairly drastic action if their forthcoming changes do not bear the desired fruit: “We will continue to monitor [the ADRs] and in the future, if we conclude there has been no improvement, we may consider requiring all [casino] operators to use a single ADR provider of our choice.”

Forum Thread is here if you’d like to comment: UKGC wants online gambling disputes system improved.