Consumer asked for our help as they ran up credit card debt from gambling during a period of ill health

Gambling Credit and borrowing money

Sunita asked for our help with a complaint, saying her bank had failed to properly safeguard her when she started using her credit card to place online bets while in hospital. Sunita explained that at the time she was very unwell and had been sectioned under the mental health act.

What happened

Sunita asked for our help with a complaint, saying her bank had failed to properly safeguard her when she started using her credit card to place online bets while off work sick. Sunita explained that at the time she was very unwell and suffering with her mental health.

While resting at home Sunita started to use her credit card to gamble. Over a three- week period she reached her credit card limit of £5,000. Sunita said this was really unusual activity for her account and that the bank should’ve realised something was wrong when she started spending in such an unusual way and stopped the payments from going through.

The bank responded to Sunita’s complaint by explaining it had no knowledge of her health problems prior to her complaint and had no notes or special instructions on her account regarding any additional support she might need. It did agree that the amount spent over the three-week period was unusual but also clarified that the individual transactions were for relatively low amounts and had been fully authorised through the different websites she’d used. It offered to refund all the interest charged in acknowledgement that Sunita was poorly when she spent the money but said she would still need to repay the outstanding debt. 

Unhappy with her bank’s response, Sunita asked us to look into things.

What we said

When we spoke to Sunita she confirmed that she had never shared her medical history with her bank as she didn’t believe it was relevant or necessary to do so.

Sunita explained that it was only after she felt a bit better and returned to work that she checked her account online and realised the true extent of the debt she’d accrued.

The following day Sunita called the bank and spoke to it at length about what had happened. The staff member she spoke to was very helpful and understanding and clearly set out all of the various types of help that the bank could provide to her. By the end of the discussion the bank had agreed to waive all the interest and charges applied to Sunita’s credit card from when she began gambling to when she called them. It also placed clear notes on her account explaining what sort of problems had occurred and what type of support Sunita believed would be useful going forward in order to help prevent anything similar happening again. This included adding blocks for gambling websites and a note requesting a welfare call once her spending hit a certain amount as well as reducing the limit on the account.

Having considered the timeline of what the bank knew about Sunita’s personal circumstances and when, as well as how it responded when she contacted them, we felt the bank had done enough in relation to Sunita’s complaint and we didn’t think it would be fair or reasonable to ask it to do anymore. This was because prior to her time off work Sunita’s account had been well maintained. There was no indication that she was struggling with her finances or that gambling had been problematic for her previously. So, we were satisfied there was no way the bank could’ve known she needed additional support prior to her contacting them. In addition, we felt the support offered by the bank once they were aware of what was happening was appropriate and in line with what we would expect them to do.