SWEDISH CONSUMER AGENCY VOICES CONCERN ABOUT IGAMING TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Sweden’s Consumer Agency has warned online gambling operators against using anti-money laundering regulations as an excuse to complicate players’ withdrawal requests, one of a number of issues identified during its review of gambling companies contract terms.
The Consumer Agency (Konsumentverket) reviewed the terms and conditions of 13 licensed online betting and gaming operators in Sweden earlier this year and identified a number of issues faced by consumers, with the findings applicable to many operators in the regulated market.
The overall conclusion of the agency is that many of the terms and conditions employed by operators are unfair to consumers, either by restricting their rights or presenting misleading or vague information.
Based on the review, the agency has made recommendations to licensed operators which will be evaluated over time to assess the industry’s compliance.
The first issue highlighted concerns the submission of documents by players.
The agency notes that Swedish gambling legislation allows operators to request information and documentation from players in a number of instances, such as registering a new account, making a deposit or requesting a withdrawal, in order to verify identity and for anti-money laundering purposes.
However, the review found that some operators go beyond what it considered reasonable by requesting information about personal attributes such as height, weight, eye colour and ethnic origin.
Some operators also reserve the right to request additional information for anti-money laundering purposes, without explaining what the additional information may entail, while others use the term “at our discretion” to decide which documents to request and when.
This lack of prior information could be considered unfair to consumers because it creates an imbalance between the parties.
The Consumer Agency also found that some contracts include restrictions on withdrawals at the operator’s discretion, including split payments, maximum withdrawal amounts and refusal of withdrawals due to alleged breaches of the terms.
Although it acknowledged that operators cannot provide an exhaustive list of conditions to consumers, the agency found that this can lead to uncertainty which could make it is impossible for the consumer to know on what grounds the company can refuse their request.
It also found that operators should be able to assess the AML risk of a consumer based on the information provided at deposit, meaning that additional documentation requests on withdrawal could be interpreted as the gaming company making it more difficult or delaying the consumer’s right to withdraw their winnings.
Other issues highlighted include terms stating that a foreign court has jurisdiction over disputes arising from the contract, which creates an imbalance in law as the consumer cannot be expected to understand the law of the foreign court. This also applies to the use of foreign alternative dispute resolution bodies, and the implied suggestion that the consumer is not protected under Swedish law.
Operator’s complaints procedures were also found to be opaque or burdensome, while the right to amend terms and conditions at an operator’s discretion and without notice was found to be unreasonable.
Eleven of the 13 operators reviewed also included disclaimers which fully or partially waived liability to the consumer, while the consumer remained liable to the company, again creating an imbalance in law.
“Following the review, the Swedish Consumer Agency is of the opinion that there is significant room for improvement at the audited gaming companies,” the agency said. “There are contract terms that may generally be considered unclear and in some case inexhaustive.
“Terms must be compatible with applicable law and clearly stated to lead to a balance in the parties’ performance, so that the consumer runs less risk of being hit by unfair conditions.”
The agency added that it will follow up the review to determine the extent of the industry’s compliance with its recommendations.
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