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UK – New research finds ‘significant fragmentation’ in how EU Member States implement consumer protection rules

By - 1 December 2021

Consumer protection rules for online gambling have been strengthened in at least 10 EU Member States since 2018, but significant fragmentation and gaps remain in the consumer protection rules of Member States, according to a new study published today by the City, University of London.

The study reviewed specific aspects of the consumer protection rules in EU Member States, including know your customer requirements, the protection of minors, safer gambling, and treatment support, and assessed whether these rules are becoming similar or not.

The CUL study concludes that while most Member States have adopted similar approaches towards consumer protection, there are significant differences in how national rules are designed or implemented and in some Member States specific consumer protection rules for online gambling are missing.

18 Member States require online gambling operators to offer their customers the possibility to set time and deposit limits. Self-exclusion tools must be offered by operators to their customers in all but 2 Member States. This is in addition to any national self-exclusion schemes which may exist.

16 Member States have established a national self-exclusion register, of which nearly all are accessible via a dedicated website. Since 2018, national self-exclusion registers have now been introduced in Czechia, the Netherlands, and Slovenia. Requirements concerning the duration of self-exclusion varies significantly between Member States.

17 Member States now have a legal requirement to display a ‘no underage gambling sign’ on gambling advertising, an increase of 5 Member States since 2018. 12 Member States prohibits the sending of gambling advertising to self-excluded customers and 11 Member States require operators to provide customers with the contact details of problem gambling helplines and/or treatment centres upon self-exclusion.

All Member States require online gambling operators to collect the full name and date of birth/age of all prospective customers. All but three Member States also require the collection of residential address.

Temporary accounts are prohibited in 14 Member States, an increase from seven Member States which prohibited temporary accounts in 2018. While all Member States have government structures responsible for regulating gambling, 16 Member States have established an independent gambling authority.

The most common enforcement tools are fines, licence suspensions and licence revocations.

The study is an update to a previous study which was published by CUL in 2018. Both studies were commissioned by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) for the purpose of contributing to research knowledge about the safer gambling regulations which exist in the EU and awareness about the level of consumer protection offered to EU citizens in respect to online gambling.

“We welcome the progress made in strengthening the consumer protection rules in EU member states. In several areas, regulatory principles are converging, but there is increasing fragmentation in how the rules are implemented and this creates a complicated compliance and enforcement map for Europe’s gambling regulators and operators, while evidently also not benefiting the consumer,” said Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the EGBA.

“A more standardised regulatory framework would surely benefit all. While regulations and enforcement are extremely important, the study also highlights that more could be done to strengthen prevention measures and ensure that those who are affected by harm are signposted to relevant helplines and treatment centres.”

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