Bookmakers could turn a bad news day in to a good one with dormant accounts
21 October 2016
Bookmakers are facing an inquiry in to whether they break consumer law in areas such as cancelling bets, altering odds after bets have been accepted and offering misleading sign-up promotions.
In an article that was high on rhetoric, but loose on facts and detail in Friday’s edition of The Times, one aspect that was missed out concerned dormant accounts.
The subject of dormant accounts, and what bookmakers do with the funds within them, is not much short of thievery.
According to the terms and conditions of most of the major bookmakers, if you have not had a bet on your online account for as little as 180 days some of them simply take that money away. To put that in to context, the Cheltenham Gold Cup won by Don Cossack was 188 days ago and think how many punters have their once-a-year bet on the Grand National.
Betfred’s terms and conditions in this area are the worst of the big bookmakers and theirs is the 180-day rule. Once your account has been identified as dormant, the firm will then use “all reasonable endeavours to contact you to determine your wishes in respect of those unused funds.”
If you are a customer who has opted out of such communication, you are unlikely to see these attempts to make contact and, as a betting man, I would estimate the majority of customers are in this position.
If you have not replied to these overtures Betfred take away your money.
"We monitor to establish if there are any dormant accounts," a spokesman told Racinguk.com. "If an account is not used for 180 days it is deemed dormant and an email is sent to the customer to explain this status asking them to make a withdrawal or use the balance. If after a further 14 days there is no response, the funds go into the general company accounts where they will stay until the customer makes contact - and then of course the funds are immediately re-instated on request."
Where Betfred are the industry bottom-feeders in terms of how quickly they swoop on punters’ funds, they at least give your money back if you ask them, much as do Bet Victor.
Top marks need to be given to Skybet and Boylesports, who wait 24 months before they start to contact you, but that is where the good news ends.
Paddy Power wait 18 months, which was the recommended period of time by a 2010 Government report, Coral are 400 days, Betfair and William Hill are 13 months and Ladbrokes are 12 months. To be clear, this is within the Gambling Commission rules of customers' funds.
Where Betfred and Bet Victor look after your money for you, most of the rest slowly chip away at your "inactive" funds as an administration charge until you have no money left. They take an amount every month and wind down your funds. If there is any good news to this, they pay tax and levy payments on these sums when they absorb your money in to their profit lines.
In bookmakers’ defence, there are money laundering and fraud issues at play here. Nefarious punters can sign up with multiple accounts with multiple emails and telephone details, and once the bonuses are all played through the account is never used again.
William Hill have also said that the dormant account policy is required due to regulations of the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association.
Money laundering issues are also why you occasionally are required to undergo identification checks in order to withdraw large sums of winnings.
To further defend the bookmakers, there is a significant amount of administration involved with identifying these accounts and managing them. They get more than their fair share of interest for keeping these funds, however, and in a 2010 report by MP Don Foster for John Penrose, the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, the recommendation was for the bookmakers to keep only 25% of these funds to cover costs.
What should happen to the other 75%? There are several precedents as to how bookmakers should be conducting themselves in this particular area.
In Hong Kong, unclaimed winnings are donated to the Jockey Charitable Trust, which several years ago amounted to over £4 million.
In 2012 former Prime Minster David Cameron set up the Big Society Capital project, which was a scheme that started off with £600million to fund grass roots social projects. Where did the money come from? The estimated £15billion of money in dormant accounts of high street banks such as Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS.
Racing has several charities that work tightly with the sport such as the Injured Jockeys Fund and Racing Welfare that could do with the contributions, while some funding to Gamble Aware would also be significant.
There was scant bookmaker reaction to The Times story on Friday, but there are many ways they could turn this news in to a good story. The money should go to charity.
Bookmakers terms and conditions concerning Dormant Accounts:
5.1 bet365 will apply an Administration Fee to all accounts that have been ‘inactive’ for a consecutive period of at least 365 days in accordance with the following procedure. An account is deemed to be ‘inactive’ during any period in which none of the following actions take place in relation to it: (i) a successful deposit; (ii) a sports or financials bet is placed; or (iii) participation in any casino, poker, games, vegas or bingo product.
(a) If your account remains ‘inactive’ for a continuous period of 365 days then your account shall be deemed to be ‘dormant’ and, if the balance on your account is zero, your account will be closed and no fee shall apply.
(b) If, on being deemed to be dormant, your account has a positive balance, bet365 shall take reasonable steps to notify you using the details you provided during your registration process (or as updated by you).
(c) If your account remains dormant, after a minimum period of 28 days following bet365’s first attempt to notify you that your account has become dormant, bet365 shall deduct a monthly Administration Fee from your account balance of £2 (or currency equivalent), or 5% of your account balance at the time that it is deemed to be dormant (whichever is greater).
(d) The Administration Fee calculated in accordance with (c) above shall be deducted from your account balance on the expiry of the 28 day notification period mentioned above and every 28 days thereafter at the same rate until the earlier of: (i) your account balance reaching zero when no further Administration Fee shall be deducted and your account will be closed; or (ii) you ‘reactivating’ your account when no further Administration Fee shall be deducted.
We may also close or suspend your Account without notice if your Account remains inactive for a significant period. If you do not use your Account for betting or gaming, making a deposit or withdrawal, or if it is otherwise inactive, for a period of at least 24 consecutive months then it will be an "Inactive Account". All Inactive Accounts will incur an Inactive Account Fee. We will notify you when your Account becomes an Inactive Account, and at least 14 days before any Inactive Account Fee is deducted from it.
From 31 December 2010, we will begin charging you* a fee†^ (as indicated in the table below) per calendar month ("Inactive Account Fee") if:
- there has been no log in or log out recorded on your Betfair account for thirteen consecutive months or more (i.e. no "Account Activity"); and
- the main licence wallet of your Betfair account± is in credit.
The Inactive Account Fee will be withdrawn from the main licence wallet of your Betfair account (your "Main Wallet") on a monthly basis to the extent that the Main Wallet remains in credit and only for the period during which there remains no Account Activity after the initial thirteen month period has passed. If the Inactive Account Fee is due to be withdrawn from your account and the balance of your Main Wallet is less than €5 (or equivalent currency), the Inactive Account Fee shall comprise the remaining funds in your Main Wallet.
If you have been subject to one or more Inactive Account Fee, we will reimburse you on request the amount charged, up to a maximum of six months’ Inactive Account Fee†.
For example: if your account is transacted in EUR, the last time you engaged in Account Activity was 28 February 2010, and your Main Wallet held funds of €25 as at 31 March 2011, then Betfair would charge its first Inactive Account Fee on or around 31 March 2011, and would continue to charge the Inactive Account Fee on a monthly basis thereafter. If you then placed a bet on 15 May 2011 and notified Betfair that you would like to be reimbursed, Betfair would reimburse you the €10 Inactive Account Fee imposed (€5 on 31 March and €5 on 30 April).
*Customers registered in Australia or New Zealand shall not be subject to the Inactive Account Fee. If your country of registration is outside the UK and you hold more than one Betfair account, you will only incur an Inactive Account Fee in respect of one account at any one time (meaning that you will never pay more than one Inactive Account Fee per month).
†If you are VAT registered and require a VAT invoice, this will be available on request from the Betfair Helpdesk.
If you have not logged into your account, or played during a period of one hundred and eighty days your account shall be deemed dormant. Similarly, if we have frozen your account for such a period it shall be considered dormant. If your account is categorised as dormant and there is a credit balance on the account, then we will use all reasonable endeavours to contact you to determine your wishes in respect of those unused funds. If you have not logged into your account within 14 days after this contact then any funds will be removed.
If You do not use Your Account to undertake any transactional activity (including betting, gaming or funds movement), or if it is otherwise inactive for a period of at least 396 consecutive days then it will be deemed to be a “Dormant Account”.
Clients with accounts identified as dormant will receive an email notification advising them their account has been deemed dormant, and any outstanding balance remaining therein. To re-activate your account please log in using your username and password. If you are unable to log in, please contact Customer Support who, provided you are able to provide proof of identity can assist you to re-activate your account.
For security reasons, all un-activated dormant accounts will be suspended within 14 days of notification and any balances will be held securely by BetVictor.
For standard (deposit/debit) accounts:
For internal purposes, if You have not accessed and/or not used Your account for a continuous period of 6 months (182 days) Your account shall be deemed dormant. This status does not affect Your rights or ability to obtain funds in Your account.
If Your account has not been accessed and/or not used for a continuous period of 400 days or more Your account will be subject to Dormancy Fees. Information on Dormancy Fees may be found in our Help section.
We will endeavour to make every effort to contact You, using the most recent details that we have been provided by You, with regards to Your account balance before Your account becomes subject to Dormancy Fees.
When activity resumes on an account which has been inactive for a period we may perform additional security checks to ensure access is legitimate and to safeguard the integrity of Your account. This may result in a request for additional information and/or the temporary suspension of Your account while the checks are carried out, especially if any of Your personal details, payment details or contact information have become out-of-date.
For credit accounts, if Your account remains unused for 12 weeks and there is an outstanding balance, as per section 3, then You will be written to and settlement in full requested.
If you do not use your account to carry out any betting activity for a period of 12 consecutive months, such account shall be deemed to be inactive ("Inactive Account").
20.4. Any Inactive Account will be charged an administration fee each month (the "Inactive Account Fee") of £2 (or currency equivalent) or 5% of the balance of the account (whichever amount is greater). We will notify you if your account becomes an Inactive Account. Subject to clause 20.5, the Inactive Account Fee shall be deducted from an Inactive Account on the first day of the calendar month after your account became an Inactive Account and thereafter on the first day of every following calendar month.
20.5. The Inactive Account Fee will be deducted until the earlier of: (a) the account balance being reduced to zero; or (b) the account being reactivated by you using the account to carry out betting activity. In each situation the Inactive Account Fee shall cease to be deducted.
20.6. We reserve the right to close any Inactive Account whose balance has been reduced to zero for a consecutive period of 6 months.
If you hold an active account on our Paddy Power website, you face no charges. If your account stays inactive for 18 consecutive months and has a positive balance, a monthly charge will apply, called a dormant account charge. A dormant account charge is required to compensate Paddy Power for the costs incurred in maintaining dormant accounts.
The monthly charge is £/€10 or 10% of your balance if higher than £/€10. Your balance will never be negative. Once the balance is 0, no further charges will apply.
We will notify you before applying the charge and you can re-activate your account at any time.
19.1 Should your Account become dormant through lack of use, we will continue to contact you (where you have "opted-in") with promotional messages until such time as you instruct us to stop. However, we will also contact all Account holders periodically to advise of any Account balance.
19.2 Please note that after a period of no less than 24 (twenty four) months of Account inactivity we reserve the right to close dormant Accounts and to remove any funds. Notice via email or letter will be given at least 30 (thirty) days before any deductions are made.