IBAS repeats call for British gambling ombudsman

IBAS saw a drop in formal requests for adjudication in 2020.
IBAS saw a drop in formal requests for adjudication in 2020.

Publishing its annual report, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service says it still wants to see the creation of a British gambling ombudsman to deal with complaints.

UK.- The Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) has repeated its call for the creation of a gambling ombudsman to deal with complaints related to gambling in Britain.

In its annual report for 2019/20, IBAS revealed that the number of formal requests for adjudication with operators fell by around 15 per cent year-on-year, but it attributed that to the closure of betting shops, racecourses, casinos and bingo clubs for much of last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite that, the number of informal complaints remained at a similar level to 2018/19 and the number of disputes regarding the identity of online account holders increased from 774 to 945.

IBAS identified self-exclusion issues as a difficult area last year. It reported that it requested policy guidance from the British regulator, the Gambling Commission, on around 100 cases in which customers who had gambled while self-excluding.

The total number of complaints to domestic operators from British customers last year was 4,475 (down from 5,235). The number of complaints from overseas customers was 1,198 (up from 1,052).

Of the complaints received, 2,511 (56 per cent) were resolved, down from 3,196 (61 per cent) in the previous year. The remaining 1,964 complaints were rejected.

The vast majority of cases continue to involve disputes over settlement criteria and/or bet instructions (1,048 cases, compared to 1,396 in 2018/19). The number of disputes over banking transactions rose from 176 to 1300.

IBAS managing director Richard Hayler said: “2020 was a year of unprecedented political and public interest in gambling, consumer protection and complaints handling.

“It was also a logistically challenging period which our staff, adjudication panellists and directors have adapted to wholeheartedly and professionally. We provided dispute resolution to consumers and businesses without interruption or government assistance.

“The government’s ongoing review of gambling legislation has created some uncertainty about the future but we remain committed to developing and improving our service further.

“In 2020 we considered over 5,500 formally submitted requests for ADR from UK and international consumers and we provided informal advice to many thousands of others.”

Calls for a British gambling ombudsman

Regarding the need for an ombudsman, IBAS noted that it had referred 653 people who completed an online claim form to the Gambling Commission instead because they had complaints about social responsibility failings, which, under the Gambling Commission’s standards for ADR Providers, must be reported as regulatory complaints.

IBAS said this created a problem for the complainants because the Gambling Commission does not consider consumer disputes, leading to a “confusing gap in the industry’s complaints handling framework”.

Hayler said: “We believe that if the government embraces the concept of a Gambling Ombudsman our body of experience – over 80,000 formal adjudication processes in over 20 years – provides the obvious foundation for a new type of service.

“We hope that DCMS will recommend an expansion of the current remit of ADR to maximise the number of consumer complaints that can be properly addressed, but we have already begun to explore the practical challenges that will bring. 

“We hope that proposals may also be forthcoming from the review about how the most effective partnership between regulator and ombudsman – if one is recommended – can be achieved.”

The trade association the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has also called on authorities to create a British gambling ombudsman during the current review of gambling legislation.

It said such a body would improve the process of responding to customer concerns and complaints and make the relationship between clients and the gambling industry more efficient.

See also: Senior MP calls for British Gambling Commission to be axed

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