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ADR Report 1st of October 2019-30th of September 2020

Posted by ThePOGG on Nov 11, 2020

Number of complaints managed

Total complaints managed – 1420

Total complaints managed under the MGA ADR remit – 496

As is based in the UK and our ADR remit does not extend to UK citizens, all complaints managed under the ADR remit are considered ‘cross borders’ disputes.

Comparative to the previous year a significant increase in complaint volume has been seen. The 2018-2019 report covered a full year of operation, but only a little over half a year of ADR function.

Over all complaints managed we have seen an increase in number of complaints of 63.6%. Within the MGA ADR remit – accounting for the previous report only covering 6 months – we have seen 138.5% increase in complaint volume.

This increase is significant enough that we feel some attention should be given to understanding why this may have occurred.

The bulk of this increase has been accounted for by the increase in MGA based ADR complaints. While we have increased our ADR client portfolio over the last 12 months, we have not done so significantly enough to account for this level of rise. Therefore the most likely explanation for the increase in MGA based ADR complaints would appear to be increased awareness of consumer rights and the support systems available to the consumer via the MGA license. We view this to be a positive for consumers, but one that should continue to be worked upon.

Outside of our MGA ADR remit we have still seen a significant increase in complaint volumes. We would attribute this to increased brand awareness and search engine exposure, resulting in a larger number of players overall being aware of our service.

Types of Complaint

The different types of complaint are defined below:

  • Bonus – Complaints related to the interpretation or application of promotional terms and conditions.
  • Multi-Accounting – The complainant’s account has been associated with other accounts in a manner which breaches operator terms and conditions.
  • Payment Delays – Self-explanatory.
  • KYC – Issues with the verification of a player’s identity or the complainant’s understanding of what is needed to meet KYC requirements.
  • Breakdown in Communications – Complaints where one or both parties has reached an impasse due to either technological breakdown or a failure of one or both parties to comprehend information that could resolve the issue. This also encompasses operators that refuse to discuss complaints and situations where a player becomes non-responsive to our service outside of our ADR remit.
  • Gaming Protection – Complaints related to Self-Exclusions or other Responsible Gambling related policies.
  • Retro-Active Term Enforcements – Complaints where an operator has update terms after a player win and attempts to apply those new terms to justify non-payment of winnings.
  • Software Issues – Complaints related to the fairness or integrity of the game software.

In the figures below the first number represents all complaints while the figure after the ‘/’ represents the figure amongst only ADR based complaints:

Bonus – 288/123

Multi Accounting – 128/48

Payment Delays – 333/111

Verification Issues – 301/106

Breakdown in Communication – 7/0

Gambling Protection – 195/78

Retroactive term enforcement – 1/0

Software Issues – 33/20

Systematic Problems

- Maximum Bet Terms – As is consistent with what we have seen historically, maximum bet terms associated with bonuses represent the largest single point of conflict between players and operators. There would be a significantly reduced case load of complaints if these terms were to be enforced automatically rather than relying on players to remember and adhere to them.

We have been highlighting this issue for years at this juncture and have put together an in depth treatment of this issue here - The Maximum Bet Problem. This should not be a challenging issue to resolve with the appropriate intervention/cooperation on the part of industry regulators as software providers.

Complaint levels would be reduced substantially via the automation of maximum bet limits. This would be a positive for the industry, make regulators look more effective and reduce the workload of ADR services.

An alternative strategy that would be less effective, but still likely result in a significant reduction in player issues related to this matter would be to require operators to display an onscreen reminder of the maximum allowed bet at all times while a bonus is in play. This reminder could be implemented without having to interface with any game programming, significantly reducing the complexity of the undertaking.

- Self-Exclusions – The second most frequent type of complaint occurring relates to Responsible Gambling policies and specifically the single property nature of the current MGA self-exclusion properties. A large volume of players, being informed about the policies of other significant regulatory entities (specifically the UKGC), expect that where they request a self-exclusion that this exclusion will be applied to all properties on the license. The fact that the MGA currently only require self-exclusions to be applied to the property that they are requested at is resulting in a significant gap between consumer expectation and consumer experience.

Beyond this, where a business is aware that a player has addiction issues and the player has specifically requested help in limiting their access to gambling services, there would appear to be a disparity in the licensee being required to restrict the player from accessing gambling services on one url but allowed to provide the same player access to the same gambling services on a different url. Common sense would seem to suggest that an exclusion on one site should be applied to all sites on the license as default rather than requiring the player to explicitly request this happens as is currently required.

This type of dispute not only represents a large proportion of the overall case load but is ethically challenging to defend.

- Self-Exclusion Detection – Another common complaint relates to the accuracy of detection of currently excluded accounts with relation to duplication. Under current regulation small changes in data – for instance, using a different email address – can result in a duplicate registration by a gambling addict going undetected.

While there are clear systematic reasons that the email address field makes a strong detection marker for identifying duplicate accounts, many licensees would appear to be using this as a sole detection mechanism and where a player changes the email address field they can bypass automated detection systems altogether.

Again, the market has little incentive to fix this on their own as these players ultimately do generate profit, so if there is to be change in the market it would necessarily have to be led by the regulator.

This issue is easily the most challenging of the issues raise to address on a technological level and may prove unrealistic to achieve. Nevertheless, improvement in this area would result in significant additional protections for the most vulnerable consumers and a significant drop in complaint volumes seen by ADRs.

- 3rd Party Payments – Over the course of this year there has been a notable increase in the number of operators including prohibitions on 3rd party payment methods in their terms and conditions (for example disallowing the use of a credit or debit card belonging to anyone other than the account holder). While there are clear and valid reasons for the industry to look to put these types of restrictions in place, this type of restriction should be enforced automatically at point of deposit. At present time we are seeing significant number of complaints generated by these policies being enforced to void winnings after deposits from 3rd party payment methods have been accepted.

By waiting to point of withdrawal to enforce this type of rule, this practice is another that creates an bias towards operators. Where players deposit via a 3rd party payment method and lose, the operator retains the funds. Where they win, the operator voids the win and returns the deposit on the basis of violation of this term. That being the case there is little incentive for the industry to address this issue.

From a regulatory perspective this is a relatively easy issue to address. Simply requiring the player to enter in the name on a payment account whenever the deposit method is set-up would preclude this problem. If the name is not an exact match to that on the account the payment method is temporarily restricted until such time as the player contacts support to have the payment method manually approved.

Alternatively, providing a pop-up styled alert before confirming a deposit reminding the player of this restriction would provide another viable option.

This policy shift would result in improved consumer experience when engaging with the industry and a reduced complaint load for ADRs.

Declined Complaints

Over the course of this year we have declined to review a total of 134 complaint submissions, of which 13 were submitted under the MGA ADR remit and 121 outside of it. This represents 2.62% of ADR based complaints and 9.44% of all complaints.

The reasons for declination can be found below. The figures after the ‘/’ represent the MGA ADR based complaints:

– Complaint was frivolous or vexatious (this includes situations where complainants become abusive or threatening): 16/3 (1.13%/0.60%)

– Complaint has already been reviewed by another ADR: 14/2 (0.99%/0.40%)

– Contested funds are less than £/$/€10: 16/3 (1.13%/0.60%)

– Complaint more than 18 months old: 0 (0%)

– Complaint would impact the effectiveness of our operation: 0 (0%)

– Complaint is of an inappropriate nature for an ADR to review: 80/5 (5.63%/1.01%)*

– Complaint submission was incomplete/pre-emptive: 13/1 (0.92%/0.20%)

* This includes issues that necessitate investigation by law enforcement authorities (most commonly claims of identity theft and unauthorised use of payment devices) and claims relating to a conflict between Maltese regulations and the legal requirements in other countries.

As a general rule we do not discontinue any complaints. Any cases where we have discontinued work on a complaint are built into the declination figures above.

Average Time Taken to Resolve Disputes

All complaints = 40.03 days

MGA ADR complaints = 34.93 days

The EU legislation upon which the Maltese ADR Directive is based requires that ADR services provide rulings on complaint issues within 90 days of “receipt of the complete complaint package”. While definition of what constitutes “receipt of the complete complaint package” is ambiguous, this service strives to address all complaints within 90 days of the complaint being received by our team. We are exceeding this target significantly as the above figures demonstrate.

Nevertheless, there are a small proportion of claims that are of a more complex nature or where extenuating circumstances necessitate additional time beyond the 90 days being invested to ensure a fair and reasoned ruling can be made. The proportion of claims that fall into this category are as follows:

All complaints = 110 (7.75%)

MGA ADR complaints = 17 (3.43%)

As a note on the above figures – that the non-ADR complaints take longer to resolve is to be expected. These operators are not bound by any contract nor are the legally required to work with this service to resolve complaint issues. This means we have lesser leverage to exert to facilitate quick resolutions.

Compliance Rates

As this service is offered free to operators we both expect and require a 100% compliance rate from any licensee we represent. Any situation where an ADR client refused to comply with our ruling would ultimately result in Ltd terminating the ADR provision contract.

Over the course of this year we have had a single complaint where the operator failed to comply with our ADR based ruling. This compliance failure resulted in our termination of ADR service provision and the case being referred to the MGA.

This represents a compliance rate of 99.80% within those complaints managed under the MGA ADR remit.

Outside of the MGA ADR remit there is no legal requirement for operators to engage any discussion regarding the issue with our team or indeed heed our verdict. As such ‘no compliance’ becomes too broad a definition that is not particularly useful.

Funds Recovered for Consumers

All complaints – $1,116,642

ADR complaints – $552,079

Average funds recovered per complaint:

All complaints – $786

ADR complaints – $1113

Proportion of complaints ruled in favour of the Consumer/Operator

Complaints Resolved:

All complaint – 44.37%

ADR complaint – 54.44%

Resolved complaints are those where upon discussion all parties agree to a solution.

Found for the Operator:

All complaints – 28.38%

ADR complaints – 42.74%

Comments – There is a significant disparity between the volumes of complaints being ruled in favour of the operator between the ADR complaints and non-ADR complaints. This can be accounted for by the fact that out with the ADR remit many operators will flatly refuse to discuss any player issues. The consequence of this is that even where the operator has valid grounds for the actions they have taken, they present no defence of their position with the result being a player favourable ruling.

Beyond this, those complaints that fall within the ADR remit are against operators that by and large will be more robustly regulated. Where regulation is tighter operators are more likely to employ policies that are fair and reasonable. Weakly licensed operators – largely falling outside of the ADR remit – are more likely to employ questionable practices that we ultimately would not support. Hence a lower level of operator favourable rulings.

Finally, with regard to the ADR based complaints, it is worth noting that rulings more frequently favour the operator than the player. This fact can be accounted for via selection bias. We look to work with licensees that are already minded towards fair treatment of players. ADR clients will look to minimise the number of complaints that ultimately get escalated to the ADR level by internally addressing as many complaints as possible. Consequently this has the result of delivering a higher concentration of issues submitted to our service where the operator is confident that the actions they have taken are fair and compliant with their license. This filtering out of legitimate claims prior to escalation to ADR review results in higher levels of operator favourable rulings.

Found for the Player:

All complaints – 17.46%

ADR complaints – 0.20%*

* Only where an operator failed to comply with an ADR ruling would an ADR complaint be categorised as ‘Found for the Player’.

Across all areas these ruling figures show a consumer favourable adjustment as compared with previous years.

There is a marked increase in the proportion of complaints that are ultimately resolved. We would suggest that this is explained by increased willingness on the part of operators to discuss complaints where they arise.

There has been a significant decrease in the proportion of complaints that have been ruled in favour of the operator. We would attribute this to the increased complaint levels. With more players familiar with their rights and the tools available to assist them where they do experience problems, we are intervening earlier in a larger number of issues, resulting in more issues that are straightforward to resolve. While this may not ultimately increase the overall number of complaints that are resolved, the suggestion being that some of these additional complaints would have ultimately been resolved by the operator without our intervention, it does likely decrease the time taken to reach a resolution.

There has been a notable decrease in the proportion of complaints ruled in favour of the player. As a complaint would only receive this status where we support the players claim but the operator refuses to comply with our ruling a decrease in this statistic suggests that a greater proportion of operators are complying with our rulings.

Cooperation with other ADRs

We maintain an open door policy with any other ADR working within the industry and sustain a positive relationship with some of the most significant entities in the field. Most notably we continue to work closely with the Malta Gaming Authority, who are currently still sustaining a notable presence in terms of dispute review, both consulting on open cases where regulatory guidance is appropriate and offering feedback where our input is sought on other complaints the regulator is reviewing.

ADR Official’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Our ADR Official – Duncan Garvie - continues to maintain their membership of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb).

Our ADR Official attends quarterly meetings with the GamShield group – a collective of compliance personnel, regulatory representatives and other industry bodies who participate in gaming protection. This ensures that we retain an up-to-date knowledge of the challenges facing the sector and the various approaches being taken to address said challenges.

Our ADR Official has taken a position as a Trustee for the responsible gambling focused charity BetBlocker, a group that support tens of thousands of users on a daily basis. They have daily input to the user support function of the charity. This ensures that our ADR Official has extensive experience engaging with and supporting those experiencing gambling addiction. This creates transferrable experience that is invaluable in the management of responsible gambling related complaints.

Our ADR Official attends biannual meetings with the UKGC RET Charity group. These meetings are chaired by the UKGC and includes representatives of all charities approved by the UKGC to receive RET based donations. These meetings provide a focused view of the problems being faced by vulnerable users and those organisations that support them. This allows a fuller understanding of the difficulties many of the players that approach our service face and allows for greater understanding of the support mechanisms outside of our role that we can direct these users to.

Measures we can take to improve the service

There are a number of technical issues with the service that, despite clear signposting, appear to be causing some users frustration.

During the complaint submission process certain browser cookies can result in the complaint returning with an ‘error’ rather than submitting. While this issue is already clearly addressed in the FAQs on the complaint submission page, additional clarification of how users can resolve this error (by clearing their browser cache, submitting via an alternative browser or submitting via an alternative device) would help to reduce support contacts. This could be provided alongside the error message.

After a complaint has been submitted some users appear to be unclear as to what will happen next. This results in a number of users who will contact email support asking for further information regarding when their complaint will be reviewed. While this question is clearly covered in our Complaints FAQs, improving the email confirmations that are sent to the complainant automatically at time of submission to clearly detail this information could reduce support requests and result in improved user experience.

Similarly, some users appear to have unrealistic expectations with regard to the timeframes involved in the dispute resolution process and the junctures at which they will receive updates. This information is made available within the Complaint FAQs, but providing reminders of this information with each email alert could result in better informed users with an improved understanding of when they are likely to receive a response.

Alongside the above creating additional resources, both text based and visual, to outline the complaint process may assist users in terms of both submitting complaints and understanding what comes next.

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