19 April 2021
The Betfred case: consumer rights and exclusion clauses
Recently a Blackjack player won a legal battle against Betfred to claim £1.7m in winnings. Andrew Green won the prize in January 2018 while playing the game on his phone, but Betfred alleged that an error in the game had skewed the odds in the player’s favour, meaning that Betfred were not obliged to pay out. After a three year legal battle, a High Court judge upheld Mr Green’s claim to the winnings and ruled that Betfred was not entitled to rely on contractual terms purporting to exclude liability to pay out on the basis of a technical fault.
Points of law discussed in the Betfred case
After being refused payment by Betfred, Mr Green issued a claim relying on a clause in Betfred’s terms and conditions which gives customers the right to withdraw funds from their online gaming account following confirmation of payment. Betfred’s defence relied on clauses of their terms and conditions which excluded liability to pay out winnings as a result of a defect or malfunction in the game. The judge ruled that the terms seeking to exclude liability had not been sufficiently brought to Mr Green’s attention and therefore could not be seen to be included as a term in the contract between the gamer and Betfred. The combination of a lack of signposting to these exclusions of liability and a failure to highlight the intended meaning and effect of the clauses meant that it was unreasonable to expect Mr Green to understand their importance.
Further, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires traders, such as Betfred, to have transparent and fair terms and notices, however the clauses Betfred relied on to exclude liability did not fit these requirements. The wording of the terms and conditions were drafted in an obscure manner, which the average and informed consumer would not be expected to understand, and inadequate signposting to the clauses excluding liability did not conform to the spirit of fairness as was the objective of the Act.
Wider implications for businesses and consumers
While the full future impact of this case is not currently known, moving forward businesses will need to be mindful that simply having terms and conditions on a website or app may not be adequate protection when dealing with business-to-consumer transactions. The Betfred case shows that any significant and relevant terms and conditions must be explicitly brought to a consumer’s attention, otherwise they cannot be relied upon by the business. Businesses must also be careful to ensure that the drafting of any exclusion clauses is clear and fair in order to comply with the Consumer Act 2015.
The Betfred case strengthens protection for consumers by robustly enforcing current legislation and has the potential to open the floor for more claims of this nature. Consumers should be aware of these requirements and should take care to read and understand any terms which are brought to their attention which may have the effect of excluding liability for the business.