Australia’s commonwealth and state and territory governments have launched the National Consumer Protection Framework (National Framework) for Online Wagering in Australia, which will provide stronger consumer protections for Australians gambling online.
The Government is concerned that the rate of online problem gambling is three times higher than other types of gambling, and that is why the establishment of the National Framework was at the core of its response to the 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering.
The National Framework provides – for the first time – strong, nationally consistent protections for consumers of Australian interactive wagering services.
It consists of 10 measures to empower individuals, and ensure the harm from online wagering is minimised. The measures will provide people with easy-to-use tools and information to better control their gambling from a voluntary opt-out pre-commitment scheme through to a national self-exclusion register.
The National Framework will have reach to around 130 wagering service providers and their account holders. This means that the National Framework will apply to around two and a half million active online wagering accounts in Australia.
Commonwealth, state and territory governments will implement the suite of measures within the National Framework progressively over 18 months, beginning from 26 November 2018.
The Government has taken tough action against illegal offshore wagering providers. This was successfully implemented through the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act 2017, which empowers the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to take tougher action against illegal offshore providers.
ACMA now reports on any complaints, breaches and investigations in relation to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. For further information, visit the ACMA website.
The Commonwealth is also examining the feasibility of disruption measures, Internet Service Provider blocking and financial blocking, and expects to have a finalised position by the end of 2018.
Complementing the National Framework, is a raft of legislative reform which successfully passed Parliament in 2017, including restrictions on showing gambling promotions during live sporting events, broadcast in children’s viewing hours. These restrictions have been in place since 30 March 2018. ACMA has implemented the same rules for online content service providers.
The National Framework will introduce 10 measures to protect consumers. These measures will be enforced across all Australian jurisdictions.
1. Prohibition of lines of credit
Since February 2018, online wagering service providers have been prohibited from offering or providing credit to people who gamble on their site or app (with limited exemptions). This measure addresses the conflict of interest in online wagering providers effectively acting like a bank to offer lines of credit. For more information, visit the ACMA website.
2. Payday lenders
Since February 2018, the use of small amount credit contracts, also known as payday lending, for online wagering has been restricted to better protect consumers. This measure stops wagering service providers from advertising payday loans. Potential connections between online wagering customers and credit providers are also restricted, as customers cannot be referred to a payday lender, nor can customer information be given to payday lenders. For more information, visit the ACMA website.
3. Customer verification
Online wagering providers will have to verify their customers’ identity within 14 days of their registration, instead of the current 90 days. The reduced timeframe for customer verification will help to ensure underage and self-excluded customers, and those operating under assumed names, do not access online wagering.
4. Restrictions on inducements
Online wagering providers will be prohibited from offering any credit, voucher, reward, or other benefit as an incentive to open an account or to refer another person to open an account. This measure is designed to protect consumers from incentive-based marketing and strengthen standards for direct marketing. It also includes preventing turnover requirements to withdrawing winnings from complementary betting credits or tokens.
5. Account closure
Online wagering providers will have to give their Australian customers a simple, easy to find, and readily accessible way of closing or cancelling their online wagering account. Providers will be required to prominently display account closure information, and ensure customers can close an account in the same channel as they bet. The account closure process must start as soon as the request is received, and consumers cannot be enticed to keep an account open.
6. Voluntary opt-out pre-commitment scheme
Consumers will be able to easily monitor and manage their gambling, by setting deposit limits before they start gambling. Customers will be given a tool to pre-commit to their own limits, which cannot be increased on the spot, as part of a voluntary opt-out pre-commitment scheme. Every online wagering provider will be required to offer deposit limits to their Australian customers. This measure will be further refined through trialling and testing.
7. Activity statements
Online wagering providers will be required to send consumers meaningful activity statements so that they can easily track and monitor their online wagering spending and behaviour. Activity statements will increase consumers’ awareness of their spending, wins, and losses. The use of activity statements will be trialled over 12 months before full implementation, to ensure the design of activity statements meets user needs.
8. Consistent gambling messaging
Online wagering providers will all have to use the same messaging about the risks and potential harm of gambling in their advertising, direct marketing, websites, and other direct communications to their customers. This will help to avoid inconsistent or ineffective messages about responsible gambling, and make sure messages reach people as they are making gambling decisions. The evidence-based, consistent messaging will be extensively trialled and user-tested.
9. Staff training
Staff involved in providing online wagering services, or with the capacity to influence the service, will be trained in the responsible service of online wagering. This will help to reduce harm by creating a culture of responsible gambling within wagering organisations nationally.
10. National self-exclusion register
Those experiencing gambling harm will be able to exclude themselves from all interactive wagering services via a simple online registration process, meeting a critical gap in consumer protections in Australia.