Who: Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”), Harrods Ltd (“Harrods”), The Condé Nast Publications Ltd (“Condé Nast”)
When: 2 September 2015
Law stated as at: 12 October 2015
Harrods launched an online competition to celebrate Condé Nast’s Vogue Festival, in which entrants were asked to post photographs of a paper cut-out of Harrods’ iconic green-clad doorman via Instagram.
Entrants were instructed to “take a photograph of the Mygreenman in a setting of their choice” and refer to certain hashtags in order to be in for a chance of winning a luxury break in London and a shopping spree in Harrods. The promotion on Harrods’ website referred entrants to “View full terms and conditions” and provided a link to Harrods’ terms and conditions page.
When clicking on the link, the page loaded at a section titled “General Competition Terms and Conditions” which stated that only one entry per person would be allowed. However, a section further down the page titled “Harrods My Green Man Competition” stated that “Entrants using multiple Instagram accounts will be disqualified” but did not refer to how many entries per person would be allowed. Even more confusingly, the Green Man terms stated that for full terms and conditions, users should see the section above, referring back to the general terms and conditions.
As a result of the conflicting rules, the ASA received three complaints challenging whether the promotion was administered fairly and in accordance with the terms and conditions.
Harrods recognised that the two sets of terms and conditions were confusing as the Green Man terms did not limit multiple entries (only entrants using multiple accounts) whereas the general terms imposed a limit of one entry per person. Harrods had not actually intended to limit multiple entries and acknowledged that a winner had not been chosen in accordance with the general terms and conditions. In order to adhere to both sets of terms, Harrods then announced two sets of winners: one for entrants who submitted multiple entries and one for those who submitted single entries only.
Also an issue on entry content and format
Further, two entries featured the Green Man against a plain piece of paper with the competition hashtags written on (as opposed to the hashtags being featured in the Instagram caption) and another with the figure being superimposed onto another image.
The ASA felt that the terms had not defined narrowly enough the “setting” that the photograph had to be in and, as such, did not make clear whether entries featuring non-locational backgrounds or digital manipulation were eligible. In the context of a competition requiring the submission of a photograph, the ASA felt that this issue could have been anticipated and dealt with in the terms and conditions.
Why this matters:
This decision really emphasises the need for clear terms and conditions
Where possible, advertisers should tailor their terms for each promotion and should ensure that they clearly exclude any existing general terms to avoid any potential conflicts. In this decision, the ASA noted that the Green Man terms did not specifically exclude the general terms and, puzzlingly, actually even referred entrants back to the general terms, even though this caused a conflict.