GambleAware calls for standard gambling payment blockers

GambleAware has called for the implementation of a standardised gambling payment block.

GambleAware has called on the government, financial institutions, and regulatory bodies to ensure all consumers have the ability to block gambling transactions after a recent study found that 28m personal bank accounts do not have access to this function.

The Study

The study, A Blueprint for Bank Card Gambling Blockers, was carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) and found that eight banks currently offer technology to block gambling transactions.

This covers 60% of personal current accounts in the UK, which represents approximately 49m bank accounts. The software is also available to 40% of credit cards, representing 26m accounts. However, using credit cards to fund gambling has been banned since 14 April.

The report ultimately found that outside of these eight banks, the transaction blocking controls are not readily available to account holders. This means that 28m accounts do not have the ability to block gambling transactions.

According to the report, aggregated data and statistics shared by financial institutions showed that around 500,000 customers across all banks that offer blocking tools have used the feature. The figures from one bank show that those who used a blocker stopped an average of two to three gambling transactions per month.

The report noted the effectiveness of the current blocking tools and said that while they work, improvements are required to provide a greater level of consumer protection.

Of those banks that offer blocking technology, three blockers can be turned on or off immediately, therefore acting as more of a lock function rather than a blocker. Some customers also found a way around the blockers in order to continue gambling.

Not everyone knows about blocking features

The report also raised concerns that not all account holders are aware of the blocking tools available to them. According to the report, 43% of respondents in an online survey said they did not know the feature was available.

PRFC research director Professor Sharon Collard said: “We examined the effectiveness of all existing blockers and found that serious changes are required. The people affected by gambling harms who took part in the review stated that the more positive friction that can be built into a bank blocker, the more effective it can be.

“It is vital, therefore, that the blockers cannot just be turned on and off, as the benefits of the technology become redundant. Instead, we recommend all financial service firms require consumers to wait at least two days between requesting to turn the blocker off, and the blocker technology stopping.

“We are calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to urgently recommend that gambling blocks are standard on all debit and credit cards.”

GambleAware and PRFC make recommendations

In response to the report’s findings, both the PRFC and GambleAware put forward several recommendations that they believe will help to improve access to gambling transaction blockers and the quality of the tools.

One recommendation suggested that financial institutions and regulators should work with experts who have experience with gambling harm to design products, services and interventions for people affected by gambling.

Another recommendation included making blockers a standard feature across all bank cards and financial institutions are encouraged to highlight gambling control tools. In addition to this, all blocking tools should be built with a time-released lock so customers cannot undo a transaction freeze.

The report also urged the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to recommend that all new debit and credit cards are designed with spending controls as a standard feature. On top of this, the government should create regulatory conditions to encourage the financial sector to develop customer spending controls.

Although the ban on using credit cards to gamble has come into effect, GambleAware and the PRFC suggested that blocking functions should be built into these products as a standard feature to ensure the ban is effective.

GambleAware chief executive Marc Etches said: “Keeping people safe from gambling harms requires banks to play their full part in providing consumers with effective means to block gambling transactions.

“While some banks have taken proactive steps to help shield their customers from gambling harms, the findings of this research indicate that improvements can and should be made.

“We encourage the banking industry to work together alongside the government and regulators to implement the proposed recommendations.”

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