ombudsman

White Paper sets out ‘best approach for fairness’ with Ombudsman proposal

Last week’s White Paper on UK gambling law reform contained numerous proposals for change, some of which were unexpected, others which were less surprising – such as the creation of an industry ombudsman.

Establishment of a single body to handle customer complaints and redress was widely reported by several outlets, including the BBC, as a likely outcome of the review in the weeks leading up to the White Paper.

This has not stopped stakeholders, including the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), from welcoming the plans, however, whilst some have outlined their own recommendations and expectations of how the new body should operate.

IBAS’ 12 month plan 

SBC News White Paper sets out ‘best approach for fairness’ with Ombudsman proposal
Richard Hayler, IBAS Managing Director

The creation of UK gambling ombudsman has been a long-term goal for the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), the Managing Director of which, Richard Hayler, has previously spoken to SBC about the organisation’s ambitions.

A statement from IBAS read: “The Government’s support for a single complaints handling body, in the form of an ombudsman is welcome.

“This is the best approach for fairness for consumers and protecting their rights. IBAS has 25 years of experience in independently reviewing consumer complaints about gambling businesses and providing advice to businesses and regulators on future dispute avoidance.“

In a previous interview with SBC, Hayler explained how ‘everyone is calling for an ombudsman’, sharing how even nine months before the White Paper’s outcomes were made clear, IBAS was confident of this decision.

Under IBAS expectations, as outlined to SBC last year, the firm expects to handle around 7,500 complaints and resolve 5,000 if granted the position as official UK ombudsman.

Additionally, the organisation asserted that transparency and data sharing would be paramount to such an operation, with an added focus on providing as short a time frame as possible to solve customer redress.

IBAS’ statement continued: “We have developed plans for how our service could be transformed into an ombudsman in little more than 12 months, and we look forward to having the opportunity to work with a range of stakeholders in the days and weeks ahead to set out our vision for a gambling ombudsman that would deliver fast, efficient and knowledgeable dispute resolution on a wider range of complaint issues than those covered by existing ADR standards.”

Nick Arron – Ombudsman comes as no shock

Agreeing with Richard Hayler’s viewpoint from almost a year ago that an ombudsman is a likely outcome of the review, Nick Arron, Lead Partner at law firm Poppleston Allen’s gaming team, laid out some hurdles that need to be addressed.

“It’s no surprise the government wants to introduce an ombudsman for the industry. This is in line with the Gambling Commission’s focus on customer redress and player protection and there have been growing calls for such a service from various bodies. 

“The big questions will be how much more power an ombudsman has compared with the current alternative dispute resolution providers working in the industry, especially as it is non-statutory, and how government will ensure the money is spent wisely and appropriately. 

“In particular, it will be interesting to see what the role of the ombudsman will be in relation to complaints about players being allowed to gamble unaffordable amounts and also in terms of the protection of player funds.”

Arron also outlined his views on the White Paper’s judgements on finance risk checks, which can be read here, along with assessments from the Department of Trust and Trustly.

Readers of last week’s White Paper will have noticed that much of the review concluded that further consultation is needed on a number of topics – this consultation could potentially see IBAS named as the new ombudsman, which the firm believes it is ideally suited to do,  or set up a whole brand new body.

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