In his second piece on misleading terms and conditions, IBAS’ John Samuels explores how operators can give consumers a fairer deal on odds in the event of administrative errors.
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y last article touched on the surprise some might feel when considering the detail of certain operator terms and conditions. Here is just one example where IBAS feels that most operators in the industry can improve upon their treatment of customers in the area of fairness: the (‘palpable’) error rule.
There is general acceptance that gambling operators, like anyone else, are entitled to have a caveat in place to deal with inputting or technical errors that result in contracts being formed on a false premise. But it could be said that most other retail transactions are somewhat different to those conducted in the gambling industry, inasmuch as in most other retail scenarios, a customer can choose whether or not to accept a proposition at the point of sale, as this is when the error in the contract is almost always highlighted and pointed out.
With gambling transactions, it is invariably the case that the error in either the odds or the score line is not highlighted until after the bet has been transacted and after it has become a winner or – in an example involving an incorrect score line – the score is seen to have been displayed inaccurately.
So, how do most operators currently deal with a situation where they have advertised and laid bets at an incorrectly displayed price as a result of staffing or technology error? Most responses to a customer will go, without the italicised phrases, something along the line of:
“We may have advertised 9/4 [and this may have encouraged you to place your bet with us] but in fact the correct price we meant to advertise was 7/4. [Although we are aware that a competitor may have been going 2/1, we were 7/4 at the time,] so that is how we will be settling the bet [and no we will not be giving you the 2/1 which you could have got elsewhere.]” One of the issues of the error rule is the distinct possibility that operators may attract customers to bet with them only because of the incorrectly advertised or quoted price. Then, once the bet is accepted and becomes a winner, the price given is recognised or said to be in error and is not honoured.
The worst aspect being that many bookmakers will then not seem to accept that this is at least poor customer service, some may say that it is tantamount to false advertising, and that there is a case to say that the customer has been misled into placing the bet and, as a consequence, has been treated unfairly.
In accordance with most, but not all, operator error rules, the customer will then only be given the price that the operator was intentionally laying at that time and not, as IBAS has been advocating for some time now, by way of a goodwill gesture in recognition of the mistake, offer the customer the best price that was available from the operator’s competitors. IBAS refers to this as the ‘best price in the village’ option. Maybe something of a misnomer in the modern industry but it portrays the essence of what we are suggesting would be a good practice for the industry to adopt.
If any senior executives are reading this, and referring to what Gambling Commission CEO Sarah Harrison has recently said, maybe now is the time to change the perceived culture that your company may have. As a start, maybe consider having the ‘best price in the village’ option in your terms and conditions. And apply it to any of your customers who come up against those Ts & Cs in relation to an error made by your company.
I would like to think that those executives in companies with a progressive attitude towards customer service would think to themselves ‘surely we have this best price in the village rule already?’ In response I would say: “Go and take a look, you may be surprised.”