Gambling website Bet365 has been fined $2.75 million following legal action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over false claims of free bets for new customers.
The penalty was handed down today after the Federal Court found in September last year that Bet365’s “$200 free bets to new customers” in Australia between March 2013 to 13 January 2014 was misleading and deceptive and involved false representations because the fine print of the offer was not easily apparent.
To receive the free cash, new customers had to deposit $200 of their own money and gamble it before receiving the $200 free bet. They then had to gamble their money and the bonus three times before they could withdraw any winnings, meaning punters had to gamble at least $1200 before getting any money back.
The fine represents just under 10% of the company’s Australian revenue of $29 million to March 2014. Bet365 is owned by UK service company, Hillside (Shared Services) Limited.
ACCC boss Rod Sims said the fine was a warning to businesses to not promote “free” offers without prominently disclosing the conditions attached to them.
“The ‘free bets’ offer by Bet365 was aimed at enticing customers, particularly new customers who had not previously used such types of services and who were drawn into what the judge described as a ‘web of deception’,” Sims said.
Justice Beach of the Federal Court concluded that Bet365 conduct involved a significant element of recklessness.
In response to the decision, Bet365 issued a statement saying it regrets that “as a result of an unintentional software error… it may not have adequately brought to the attention of customers terms and conditions associated with the promotion”.
The company says it had corrected the error before being contacted by the ACCC.
“Bet365 has introduced stricter compliance processes and controls, as well as improved staff training to prevent a similar issue arising again,” it said.