EU Consumer Protection Rules Fall Short for Gamblers

A study carried out by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has revealed that the majority of EU member states have not adequately implemented EU consumer protection guidelines in the online gambling sector.

The result is unequal protection for consumers across the European Union, with some countries providing insufficient protection in the sector.

Consumers left poorly protected

The paper, titled Consumer Protection in EU Online Gambling Regulation, was commissioned by EGBA and carried out by Dr Margaret Carran of City University, London.

The most prominent finding from the study is that all EU member states, save for Denmark, have failed to follow the recommendations for consumer protection in online gambling.

The finding came to light when researchers analyzed how different EU countries have implemented selected elements of the European Commission’s 2014/478/EU recommendation, which provides details on consumer protection in the gambling sector, as well as guidelines for protecting children from underage gambling.

The study ultimately found that the recommendations’ goals had not been achieved, which has resulted in insufficient levels of consumer protection across EU member states.

EGBA’s secretary general, Maarten Haijer, released a statement in response to the study. He said: “Because online gambling in Europe is regulated at national level, the level of consumer protection provided to players varies depending on where they reside in the EU – and this is entirely inadequate for what is an inherently borderless digital sector.

“Guidelines have proven insufficient and we call on EU policy-makers to act by introducing mandatory rules to ensure there is a consistently high level of consumer protection and uniform safety nets for all online gamblers in Europe.”

Key points from the study

The study uncovered a number of concerns about the implementation of consumer protection in the gambling industry across member states, or rather the lack of it.

One of the biggest concerns is that while 25 countries require players to open an online account before they can gamble, only 22 actively require a player to verify their identity when they apply to open an account on a gambling site.

The report says verification of users’ identity should be carried out according to the recommendations, both to safeguard children from underage gambling, but also to protect companies and individuals from the threat posed by money laundering.

Another concern was raised when it comes to allowing underage gambling: 22 countries have declared the minimum age for gambling as 18, but only 13 countries enforce a “no underage gambling” message that has to be featured on all gambling advertising.

The third concern raised was in relation to problem gamblers and the social responsibility that is placed with gambling operators. Of the member states, 23 require gaming operators to provide a self-exclusion option for players who have come forward as having gambling problems. Only 14 countries have implemented a national register for players who have self-excluded.

The biggest concern is that not one of the member states has implemented the recommendation that users should face a mandatory referral to a problem gambling treatment center upon coming forward to exclude themselves on a provider’s platform.

The shortfalls that have been uncovered by the study should allow policy-makers and gaming operators alike to work towards implementing safeguards to allow players to gamble in a safe environment online.