The Affordability Debate: Protection, Responsibility And The Right To Choose

Published date12 April 2022
Subject MatterConsumer Protection, Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment, Compliance, Consumer Law, Gaming
Law FirmHarris Hagan
AuthorMr Julian Harris

That affordability checks are a critical issue for the British gambling industry is undeniable; they place a yet further onerous burden on an already stretched gambling industry. However, without fear of exaggeration, they also raise a question about the rights of British adults to make their own free choices, both good and bad and to have responsibility for their own actions. Other industry commentators have written at length on this controversial issue, but its importance is such that it bears further examination, not least as to the way in which this line of regulation is developing.

Where's the evidence?

In its Consultation and call for evidence - Remote customer interaction requirements (the "Consultation"), the Gambling Commission identify the problem leading to the consultation and proposed new measures as being that some operators have inadequate customer interaction processes and triggers which are set too high, as evidenced by research, casework and "lived experience" evidence. They conclude that the resolution of this will be defined affordability assessments at thresholds set by the Gambling Commission.

Ultimately, the Gambling Commission seeks to reform the way that operators are required to identify customers who may be at risk of gambling harms, by imposing mandatory triggers for activity that should flag such customers to the operator, what action must be taken by operators when such triggers are identified, and how operators must ensure that they evaluate the effectiveness of their approach to interacting with customers. A new customer interaction 'manual' is proposed as part of the customer interaction reforms, which will explain the new requirements of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice and how operators are expected to meet these requirements. This would replace the current guidance, Customer interaction - formal guidance for remote gambling operators (July 2019). The actual spending limits on which the Gambling Commission will settle, remain to be determined following the Consultation. However, the references in the Raising standards for consumers - Compliance and enforcement report 2019-20 (the "Enforcement Report") and the Consultation suggest very low figures indeed before intervention is mandated and evidence required: the Gambling Commission have referred to "firm requirements".

We are concerned that the Gambling Commission is not adopting a risk based and proportionate approach, combined with the fact that the...

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