Number of complaints managed
Total complaints managed – 877
Total complaints managed under the MGA ADR remit – 400
ThePOGG.com 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 managed (26%) and complaints managed under the ADR remit have similarly decreased by 22%.
The ADR complaint increase is notable in nature as this should be dependent on the overall traffic of our ADR clients, and unrelated to the general rankings of the website. Whether this indicates that our ADR clients are obtaining fewer players, or whether they are doing a better job of managing those players, we cannot say.
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 – 117/68
Multi Accounting – 60/23
Payment Delays – 308/137
Verification Issues – 206/91
Breakdown in Communication – 5/3
Responsible Gambling – 61/27
Retroactive term enforcement – 1/0
Software Issues – 35/17
- Maximum Bet Terms – As is consistent with what we have seen historically, maximum bet terms associated with bonuses represent one of the largest single point of conflict between players and operators, representing 1.5% of all cases and 2.5% of cases under the ADR remit. 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.
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.
- High Risk Activity – Over the last 12 months we have seen sustained high volumes of high risk activity, specifically originating in one Eastern EU country. There is strong evidence to indicate that there are large numbers of accounts being registered that are being operated by people other than the person identified in the account information and that the name on the account is being used to allow a 3rd party to access welcome incentives that they are not entitled to.
This activity has been observed moving from group to group within the industry, generally targeting one group until such times as they have exhausted the proxy identities being used or the licensee takes steps to limit the value of the promotional incentives being offered. This activity has been observed both at our ADR clients and non-ADR clients, though admittedly our insight into their activity at non-ADR properties is more limited, and has over the time period worked through the better licensed systems and seems to be moving on toward Curacao licensed operators.
We cannot suggest any direct solution to this issue other than licensees restricting this country from receiving promotional advantage or waiting for the attention of whoever is directing this activity to shift to the unlicensed markets.
- Source of Wealth checks - The increased levels of high risk activity detailed above is resulting in higher levels of enhanced due diligence being engaged, specifically Source of Wealth checks, with the intention being to establish exactly how the account holder came to be the legal owner of the funds put into play.
These checks are resulting in higher levels of frustration for users, but they are also proving very effective in identifying situations where the person named on the account is neither the person operating nor funding the account.
Again we have no direct solution to this particular issue.
Number of Complaints Declined
Over the course of this year we have declined to review a total of 87 complaint submissions, of which 31 were submitted under the MGA ADR remit and 46 outside of it. This represents 7.75% of ADR based complaints and 9.92% of all complaints.
Overall there has been a slight increase in the number of declined complaints. This has mostly occurred due to an increased volume of complainants submitting complaints on the grounds that the licensee in question does not hold a local license for their country (Germany and the Netherlands being the two most frequent). While we appreciate these players concerns, the MGA license does not prohibit licensees from accepting players from these countries.
The player would need to contact the regulatory agencies in their own country to enforce licensing standards put in place by these agencies. More complaints of this nature should be anticipated as more countries put in place their own licensing schemes.
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): 16/4 (1.82%/1%)
– Complaint has already been reviewed by another ADR: 8/2 (0.91%/0.50%)
– Contested funds are less than £/$/€10: 4/2 (0.46%/0.50%)
– Complaint more than 18 months old: 1/0 (0.11%/0%)
– Complaint would impact the effectiveness of our operation: 0 (0%)
– Complaint is of an inappropriate nature for an ADR to review: 45/15 (5.13%/3.75%)*
– Complaint submission was incomplete/pre-emptive: 8/4 (0.36%/1%)
* 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.
How Long Did the Complaint Management Process Take?
All complaints = 42.77 days
MGA ADR complaints = 42.97 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.
Over the course of this year significant improvements were made in the average time that each complaint takes. However we still feel that further improvements should be possible and will be making efforts to achieve this objective.
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 = 82 (9.35%)
MGA ADR complaints = 22 (5.50%)
The percentage of complaints taking longer than 90 has significantly reduced year on year, for ADR based complaints over a 40% reduction in complaints exceeding 90 days.
It should also be emphasized that the overall processing time still sits at less than 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.
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 ThePOGG.com 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 – $1,894,638
ADR complaints – $767,151
Average funds recovered per complaint:
All complaints – $2160
ADR complaints – $1917
Despite a decrease in the number of complaints managed, there has been an increase in the overall funds recovered. This is due to one very large complaint outside of the ADR remit that significantly increased the overall funds recovered. It should be noted that the average funds recovered via the ADR remit is very similar to previous year’s averages, suggesting a consistent approach to managing complaints.
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 – 490 (55.87%) / 284 (71.00%)
All other statuses – 387 (44.13%) / 116 (29.00%)
Based on this measure it is clear that the majority of complaints end up at Resolved status. 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 170 complaints were excluded under the ADR remit and 329 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 – 267 (48.72%) / 114 (49.57%)
Ruled in Favour of the Operator – 252 (51.28%) / 116 (50.43%)
The above averages very closely approximate the 50/50 split in rulings that would be expected of a service of this nature. Player favourable rulings have declined this year, but this is to be expected given the increased volume of high risk claims that have been submitted from one particular Eastern European country, as has already been discussed above.
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.
We have also provided 2nd opinions on a number of claims for other ADRs within the sector.
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 is required to attend 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. These are ongoing.
We have significantly improved our guidance on the complaint management process, creating extensive documentation detailing extensively exactly what complainants should expect and adding video resources.
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.
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