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Gambling Commission Readies New Powers For Advertising Crackdown

The UK Gambling Commission has today announced new rules that will allow it to take faster and more impactful enforcement action against companies that breach advertising guidelines or consumer law.

Currently, the commission is only able to fine operators that are found to have conducted misleading advertising, but under a reorganisation of its regulations will rapidly expand its remit.

“From October 31, 2018 … gambling companies that break advertising rules or breach consumer law will face tougher action,” said the regulator in a press release on Wednesday.

Recent fines include a landmark £300,000 case against BGO Entertainment for failings by its affiliate partners and £150,000 paid by Lottoland over alleged lottery betting confusion.

From November, the commission will be empowered to issue fines and other enforcement measures for any advertising breach.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the regulator said the changes will make it far easier to take action against operators that are seen to be advertising in a way that appeals to children or that offer unfair terms and conditions.

The commission said it would be leading a “crackdown on operators who don’t treat customers fairly”.

These increased powers will allow the regulator to better enforce the findings of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The watchdog last year compelled a number of operators to change their terms and conditions to be more clear around withdrawals and bonus offers.

In the wake of the CMA’s undertakings, the Gambling Commission announced that all operators would be expected to bring their terms up to the same standards by a deadline that has now passed, or face enforcement action.

Ads or online slots using cartoon characters have also been a recent focus for the Advertising Standards Authority, which has forced a number of operators to remove offending material, but is not empowered to issue financial penalties.

In its release, the Gambling Commission reiterated its position on holding operators accountable for their marketing partners, confirming that “firms will face action for advertising failings by third party affiliates” under its new powers.

Gambling firms will also face a limit of eight weeks for dealing with customer complains, after which they face the prospect of regulatory action.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive said: “Protecting the interests of consumers is priority for us and needs to be a priority for gambling operators.

“These changes will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions, ensure that they can withdraw their money more easily, and will mean that firms have to deal with complaints more swiftly.”