Last month the Gamblers Consumer Forum wrote to the Financial Conduct Authority on the subject of the way banks treat gambling related transactions. This follows a number of reports that those who gamble were suffering bank account restrictions and closures. The FCA have responded and their letter is reproduced below.
We continue to be made aware of issues around gambling transactions and would invite those impacted by these to contact us on email@example.com as we build a body of evidence to highlight yet another infringement on the rights of those who choose to legally bet with their own money.
FCA provision of banking services review
Thank you for your email dated 21 August, which sets out your members’ concerns about banks’
treatment of gambling-related transactions. I am responding as the Director responsible for
overseeing our work on retail banking. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to
We recognise that losing access to a bank account can cause serious disruption to a business
and cause distress to the individuals impacted. As you are aware, we are currently taking steps
to understand the extent of denial, suspension, and termination of bank accounts and have
asked for information from the largest account providers to assess the impact on a wide range
of customers. This includes the reasons firms close or refuse accounts and the impacts of this
on different groups of customers.
We will report on our initial findings and potential next steps in mid-September. This may include
proposals for further work, including our wider engagement strategy with various consumer
groups and organisations. We will consider the issues identified by this work that sit within our
regulatory remit in the light of our findings, and we will contribute to the Government’s wider
work on business accounts.
Our information request included questions about policies that may exclude specific groups of
customers from the provision of services.
You asked about our expectations about how banks manage money-laundering risks. Banks
must put in place and maintain policies and procedures to identify, assess and manage moneylaundering risk and these must be comprehensive and proportionate to the nature, scale, and
complexity of the bank’s activities.
Where a bank does not believe that it can effectively manage the money-laundering risk
associated with a business relationship, it should not enter into or maintain that business
relationship. But the risk-based approach does not mean that banks should deal generically with
whole categories of customers or potential customers. Instead, we expect banks to recognise
that the risk associated with different business relationships in a single broad category varies,
and to manage that risk appropriately.
In relation to the statements regarding anti-money laundering risk and the low-risk status that
the Treasury, Home Office and National Crime Agency has assigned to the regulated gambling
sector, we would expect that firms would consider these findings as part of the customer risk
assessments they undertake.
While the decision to accept or maintain a business relationship is ultimately a commercial one
for the bank, there should be relatively few cases where it is necessary to decline business
relationships solely because of anti-money laundering requirements. As a result, we consider,
as part of our anti-money laundering work with firms, whether firms’ de-risking strategies could
lead to consumer protection issues.
Our Consumer Duty rules require all financial services firms to address biases or practices that
may impact consumers achieving good outcomes. Under our rules, firms must ensure they treat
their customers fairly, including when they make decisions to stop providing a service. That
means communicating with them well, providing decent customer service and delivering
products that meet their needs.
We also welcome the Government’s proposed changes to the Payment Account Regulations 2017
which will ensure firms increase the notice period provided to customers from 60 to 90 days and
are clear with their customers about the reasons they are closing any account. We will work with
banks and building societies to ensure effective implementation of these rules.
We encourage anyone who believes they have been inappropriately denied access to an account
to complain to their bank and, if they remain dissatisfied, to the Financial Ombudsman
(FOS). FOS review complaints from individual customers, micro-enterprises, small businesses
and can help with complaints about businesses that provide retail financial products and services
in or from the UK.