Council allays fears that charity lotteries will be caught by ‘subscription trap’ legislation

Charity

A bill tackling “subscription traps” will not affect charity lotteries after concerns they would be caught up in the legislation, according to the Lotteries Council. 

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill was introduced to parliament earlier this year with the aim of “making it easier for consumers to end subscription contracts”, according to Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park.

The bill will “impose new duties on traders”, including having to provide specific pre-contract information to consumers and having to send reminders to consumers before a contract rolls over or auto-renews into a new term. 

Traders will also have to honour the right of consumers to cancel subscription contracts during cooling-off periods and ensure that consumers have a straightforward mechanism to terminate the subscription contract.

Craig Whittaker, the Conservative MP for Calder Valley, told the House of Commons in May that charity lotteries should be “excluded from the bill’s provisions” because they are “already regulated by the Gambling Commission”.

Paul Scully, the then-science minister, said charity lotteries would not need special exclusion as they are “not in scope in the first place”. 

But earlier this month, Richard Thomson, the SNP MP for Gordon, told MPs the charity lottery sector was still concerned it would be affected by the bill because it contained significant ambiguity in its wording.

This was because charity lotteries tend to use a subscription-based model of accepting donations without providing a “good, a product or digital content in return”, he said, which meant they could be included in the “subscription trap” category. 

A spokesperson for the Lotteries Council told Third Sector this week that it was initially “pretty clear to the council that charity lotteries would be caught up by the bill”.

The spokesperson said: “The council has been in dialogue with the Department for Business and Trade since the bill was published in April with a view to having charity lotteries added to the Schedule 19 exclusion list.

“We are pleased to note that yesterday the department has added all gambling contracts (including charity lotteries) to that schedule, recognising that they are already separately regulated.”

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