The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has filed proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that the advertising campaign conducted by companies within the Bet365 Group (Bet365) which offered ‘free bets’ and ‘deposit bonuses’ to new online customers contained misleading representations.
In order to access $200 worth of ‘free’ bets/a deposit bonus, consumers were required to deposit at least $200, and then gamble at least $1,200 within 90 days of joining the online sports wagering fold of Bet365 before they could withdraw any money. Additionally there were restrictions on the types of bets that could be placed – in order to qualify for the ‘free’ bets/a deposit bonus, the qualifying bets needed to be at odds no less than 1.5, meaning the qualifying bets were not low risk.
The ACCC alleges that the offers being made by Bet365 through website, television, outdoor advertising and sports stadium marketing campaigns, ‘conveyed the general thrust or dominant message that new customers of Bet365 would be entitled to up to $200 in bets without limitation or restriction.’ The basis of the claim of misleading conduct from the ACCC was the extensive criteria that had to be met to quality for the ‘free’ bets.
While Bet365 amended its website after it was initially contacted by the ACCC about the concerns, the ACCC is still seeking various orders from the Federal Court for declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, a compliance program and costs.
The first directions hearing for this matter is scheduled to take place on 10 October 2014.
In announcing that they had instituted these proceedings the ACCC noted that Consumer issues in online trading are an enforcement priority for the ACCC.
Businesses operating in the online space, whether or not they are in the gambling or gaming sector, should take heed of this warning.
We will keep you posted as this case continues to develop.