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BetFred rigged games: are the casinos in question open to legally enforceable misconduct claims?


Saturday, March 26, 2016

BetFred rigged games: are the casinos in question open to legally enforceable misconduct claims?


December 10, 2013

In my closer look at the regulations article followup to the BetFred rigged games issue, I highlighted what appeared to be several breaches of the Gibraltar regulations - most notably, this one:


7.1 Game fairness

(5) A licence holder should not implement game designs or features that may reasonably be expected to mislead the customer about the likelihood of particular results occurring.



BetFred's explanation for the incorrect performance of the games in question was a "faulty helpfile", leading to games with a 96% return being advertised at 100%. While it may or may not be true that the helpfile was faulty, this was not the main issue as the games themselves were plainly performing in a manner inconsistent with the regulations.


However, it might be worth putting aside the issue of the software performance and focussing on the situation as described by BetFred and their Gibraltar hosts, that the only problem was a faulty helpfile. Is this, in itself, adequate and reasonable?

It almost certainly isn't. Aside from the gambling-specific regulations above which clearly state that game features must not be misleading, the more wide-ranging Department of Consumer Affairs has this to say:


YOUR RIGHTS UNDER THE SALE OF GOODS ACT

When you buy goods from a trader the law says they must:

Match their description. This means that they must be as described by the seller. This includes any description on the packaging. In most circumstances, it also means that they must conform to any advertising claims made about them.



The "goods" in question are gambling games, and they did not conform to their advertising: they were advertised as having a far higher return than was the case, by accident or design.

The Consumer Protection Act 2008 describes misleading practices:


PART IV

MISLEADING COMMERCIAL PRACTICES

Misleading actions.

6.(1) A commercial practice shall be regarded as misleading if it contains false information and is therefore untruthful or in any way, including overall presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer...(more)



So, matching the case in hand with the general consumer protection notes and the actual legislation:

• The goods in question did not match the description.

• They did not conform to the advertising claims, ie. the return percentage listed.

• They were misleading, as they contained false information that would certainly deceive most any customer, let alone the average person.


The Consumer Protection Act above also includes enforcement procedures:


PART VII

ENFORCEMENT

Enforcement by way of injunction.

11.(2) It shall be the duty of the Consumer Officer to consider any complaint made to him that a commercial practice is contrary to the provisions of this Act.



And then, should the matter go to court:


(6) The court may impose the following by way of penalties -

(a) a warning;

(b) a fine of up to ten per cent of the trader’s turnover in Gibraltar or an estimate of the same;

(c) a fine of up to the statutory maximum for a summary offence as against an officer of a body corporate; or

(d) the removal of, or limitations to, any licence, permission, authorisation to trade in or from Gibraltar,

and the court may impose a combination of the above where appropriate.



Aside from the legally enshrined offences and punishments above, the culpability of the casinos running games advertised with a higher return than was actually the case stacks up to basic common sense and fair play: if you play a game advertised in a certain way, and it subsequently comes to light that the product you chose was not what it had claimed to be, you should be entitled, under a jurisdiction where fair laws are the norm, to appropriate compensation.

In the case in question, you should be entitled to a refund of the difference between the amount of the return as advertised and the actual return, based on your wagered total. In other words, if you wagered £100,000 on the assumption of a 100% return, and subsequently discovered the return was only 96%, that 4% difference amounts to a £4000 refund.

This is basic common sense, and the general principle appears to be enshrined in Gibraltar law. Whether or not anyone comes forward to seek to enforce those basic tenants of consumer fairness remains to be seen.



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