UKGC: Operators causing fund withdrawal friction is unacceptable

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The UK Gambling Commission has released an update on its Business Plan, which includes examining data on why so many consumers are having problems with withdrawing funds from accounts with operators.

The UKGC highlighted that out of the over 6,000 calls the Commission’s Contact Centre receives annually from consumers and prospective licensees, the number one topic raised by consumers is account withdrawal issues.

In a blog post, Lucy Denton, Director of Communications at the UKGC, noted that consumers are frustrated that they have to wait long periods before their funds are available to them, as well as that identification has to be provided to some operators to complete withdrawals.

Denton understood that operators must perform AML checks and that some withdrawal delays may be out of the operator’s control, while also adding that the vast majority of requests are fulfilled in two days or less.

The UKGC Director said: “Data provided to the Commission by some of the largest gambling companies shows that those firms approve, process and fulfil around 99 per cent of customer withdrawal requests within 24 to 48 hours of the request being made.

“But when you have over 20 million people gambling every four weeks, a mere one per cent of withdrawals taking longer can still mean a lot of frustrated customers.”

Elsewhere in her update, Denton stated that the UKGC has begun discussions with operators to pinpoint why the complaints are being made and what can be done to improve the process for customers.

The Commission has previously highlighted the need for operators to inform players that funds from accounts can be withdrawn at any time and other consumer rights expectations within published reports on expectations of gambling companies regarding withdrawals and its previous work with the Competition and Markets Authority.

In 2019, the UKGC also updated its LCCP to force operators to verify a customer’s identity before they can gamble, but not as a mandatory condition for a withdrawal to take place if such identification could have reasonably been obtained earlier.

Denton said: “It is not acceptable for operators to introduce friction when a customer tries to withdraw from their account rather than the point at which they deposit into the account, or to place the operator’s commercial interests over those of their customers.

“Similarly, any information the operator requires from the customer to identify whether they are at risk of gambling-related harm should not be used to delay or prevent the customer withdrawing their funds. A customer’s ability to deposit or gamble may in certain circumstances be impacted, but their ability to withdraw funds should not be.”

The Communications Director added that operators must comply with consumer protection laws and treat customers in a fair, open and transparent way.

A licensee’s terms and conditions and practices must not be unfair within the meaning of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. They also must not commit any unfair commercial practices within the meaning of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Looking ahead, Denton concluded that the UKGC will keep tracking consumer complaints to understand their experiences, as well as undertake targeted compliance activity regarding terms and practices of operators to decide if regulatory framework needs to be improved.