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ADR Report 1st of October 2020-30th of September 2021

Posted by ThePOGG on Nov 09, 2021

Number of complaints managed

Total complaints managed – 1199

Total complaints managed under the MGA ADR remit – 511 runs its ADR service via a Maltese company named Nohadon Ltd. As such only complaints from Maltese citizens would be considered domestic complaints. Only a single complaint this year has fallen into that category, all other complaints are considered ‘cross borders’ disputes.

Compared to the previous year, there has been a marked decrease in overall complaints however complaints managed under the ADR remit have increased by 3%.

The ADR complaint increase is unremarkable in nature. The decrease in overall complaints managed is due to significant fluctuations within the project’s Google rankings, leading to decreased overall traffic. This issue is being addressed at the time of writing this report.

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 Problems – This can be delays in payment, lost transactions or issues with finding accessible payment options.
  • 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.
  • Responsible Gambling – 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 or the physical function of the User Interface of the operators service.

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

Bonus – 209/115

Multi Accounting – 81/29

Payment Delays – 390/125

Verification Issues – 246/121

Breakdown in Communication – 11/0

Responsible Gambling – 93/40

Retroactive term enforcement – 0/0

Software Issues – 67/49

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 and 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, 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. These are vulnerable players that as an industry we should be working to protect.

- 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. And within other jurisdictions stricter regulations have been enforced that require licensees to implement systems that set thresholds for partial matches. So the technology already exists to take steps forward on this matter.

- 3rd Party Payments – Following on from the previous year, we have seen a sustained high level in the number of complaints being submitted that relate to operators prohibiting the use of 3rd party payment methods within their terms of use (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.

Number of Complaints Declined

Over the course of this year we have declined to review a total of 102 complaint submissions, of which 32 were submitted under the MGA ADR remit and 70 outside of it. This represents 6.26% of ADR based complaints and 8.51% 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): 6/0 (0.50%/0%)

– Complaint has already been reviewed by another ADR: 13/4 (1.08%/0.78%)

– Contested funds are less than £/$/€10: 20/8 (1.67%/1.57%)

– Complaint more than 18 months old: 3/1 (0.25%/0.20%)

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

– Complaint is of an inappropriate nature for an ADR to review: 53/15 (4.42%/2.94%)*

– Complaint submission was incomplete/pre-emptive: 4/4 (0.36%/0.78%)

* 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 will look to see as many complaints as possible through to a conclusion. Any cases where we have discontinued work on a complaint are built into the declination figures above.

There is only one substantive change in the figures year on year, and that is the ADR complaints that fall under the ‘Complaint is of an inappropriate nature for an ADR to review’, specifically for our MGA ADR complaints which has increased from 1.01% of all ADR complaints to 2.94% (nearly tripling).

This increase is accounted for due to complainants from the Netherlands and Germany. Both jurisdictions have taken significant steps towards implementing their own licensing systems in the last 24 months. Increased consumer awareness in these countries is resulting in growing volumes of losing players looking to claim refunds on losses due to lack of local license.

The MGA does not currently require their licensees to hold a license in either country to continue accepting traffic from those countries. As we act on behalf of the MGA licensing system, until such time as the regulator takes a clear position on this matter all we can suggest to players looking to make this type of claim is that they contact their local licensing agency for assistance.

How Long Did the Complaint Management Process Take?

All complaints = 49.88 days

MGA ADR complaints = 46.75 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.

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.

However, we still experienced a significant increase in processing time year on year. This is accounted for due to some significant structural changes within the organisation that resulted in both staffing changes and remit reassignments. We are already taking steps to address this increase moving forwards.

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 = 134 (11.18%)

MGA ADR complaints = 50 (9.78%)

As was addressed above, there has been a marked increase in the number of complaints taking longer than 90 days. This is at least partially due to decreased efficiency within our service. We are in the process of addressing this increase by making more resources available to the ADR service.

While there have been increases in processing time, it should be emphasized that the overall processing time still sits at around half of the target set by the EU ADR legislation, significantly outperforming the established benchmarks, and that our current processing time is roughly in line with that of other major ADR services within the industry.

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 100% compliance rate with our rulings within the MGA ADR system.

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 ‘non-compliance’ becomes too broad a definition that is not particularly useful.

Funds Recovered for Consumers

All complaints – $1,569,459

ADR complaints – $974,698

Average funds recovered per complaint:

All complaints – $1309

ADR complaints – $1907

Every figure above – both totals and averages – shows a significant year on year increase.

Proportion of complaints ruled in favour of the Consumer/Operator

It is challenging to present resolution ruling rates in a manner that conveys useful information.

Firstly, when our complaint system functions correctly, we look to work towards reaching an understanding with the operator about any problems that may have occurred rather than enforcing a ruling and in this way look to prevent similar issues occurring in future. Our ‘Resolved’ status is the status reached where both parties are happy with the outcome. As such our ‘Resolved’ status is likely the closest we offer to ‘ruled in favour of the Consumer’.

On this basis, if we look only at Resolved complaint vs all other statuses we get the following results:

Resolved Complaints – 672 (56.05%) / 339 (61.52%)

All other statuses – 527 (43.95%) / 212 (41.49%)

Based on this measure it is clear that significantly more complaints end up with happy Consumers. However this fails to take account of a number of factors.

The ‘Resolved’ complaints include cases where either the player stops responding to our requests for information, and as such we assume they have resolved their issue without our help, and cases where the player informs us that they have resolved the matter by themselves. It seems misleading to include these complaints in the ‘Consumer Favourable Rulings' section, so next we will exclude them.

Also the ‘all other statuses’ section includes complaints where we ruled in favour of the player but the operator did not comply (outside of the ADR remit), Declined complaints and Unresolved complaints where we opted not to give a ruling (again outside of the ADR remit). These complaints again seem inappropriate for inclusion, so we will exclude them.

This means that a total of 192 complaints were excluded under the ADR remit and 607 were excluded outside of the ADR remit. The vast majority of these cover cases where the player has become non-responsive to our requests for further information.

Taking the above into consideration we get the following:

Ruled in Favour of the Consumer – 340 (56.43%) / 179 (56.11%)

Ruled in Favour of the Operator – 252 (42.57%) / 140 (43.89%)

Even with the exclusion of non-appropriate cases, the complaint ruling ratio still strongly favors consumers both in and outside of the MGA ADR remit.

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.

Our ADR Official has undertaken a project to familiarise themselves with all of the policy documentation, from international law, through local law and down to regulatory policy for a number of jurisdictions this year. This is intended to ensure a wide understanding of the regulatory standards required regardless of the jurisdiction of the complainant.

Measures we can take to improve the service

In the last year lots of technical upgrades have been undertaken to improve both the user interface and security of player data.

We have also improved our guidance on the complaint management process, creating extensive documentation detailing extensively exactly what complainants should expect.

We have also built a system of automated emails that are triggered by different events in the complaint management process. These emails contain information on what the complainant should do next alongside signposting our guidance clearly.

One clear shortcoming in the last year has been the increased complaint management time that is a direct consequence of fewer man-hour resources being invested in investigating complaints. Over the next year it should be a priority to rebalance this and ensure that the turnaround on complaints is as smooth as possible.

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