Press ads for an easyJet scratchcard prize promotion claimed “Thousands of other cash prizes up for grabs”, and that there was a “No Purchase Necessary” route. David Pawan analyses the ensuing ASA verdict and considers the turbulence easyJet could have faced under new unfair commercial practices regulations.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Advertising Standards Authority
When: 11 June 2008
Where: United Kingdom
Law stated as at: 23 June 2008
An ad for scratch cards in easyJet's in-flight magazine stated:
"Funcards – WIN £20,000 with easyJet today… There are three limited edition designs exclusive to easyJet to collect. Thousands of other cash prizes are also up for grabs with a 1 in 4.27 chance of winning. With £20,000 to be won… what are you waiting for? Funcards available on all easyJet flights. (Not available on Swiss-based aircraft with flight numbers 1000-2599. No Purchase Necessary)".
1. A passenger believed that the claim "Thousands of other cash prizes are also up for grabs" was misleading, because he understood that smaller prizes were not 'cash' but vouchers redeemable against goods from the easyJet on-board kiosk.
2. The ASA challenged whether there was a "No Purchase Necessary" route as claimed.
1. easyJet stated that the claim "Thousands of other cash prizes are also up for grabs" was intended to convey to participants that thousands of pounds worth of prizes were available, although they accepted that this was not completely clear. easyJet informed the ASA that they would review the claim before running similar promotions in future.
2. easyJet stated that there was a "no purchase necessary" route of entry, and both the ad and the terms and conditions set out on the front of the scratch card referred to it. They conceded that the precise method for free entry should have been detailed on the EasyJet website, but acknowledged that that had not been the case. easyJet asserted that they would amend the structure of the promotion to include a more transparent free entry route in future.
The ASA upheld both complaints in relation to the ad for scratch cards in easyJet's in-flight magazine.
1. The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the claim "Thousands of other cash prizes are also up for grabs" that, in addition to the first prize of £20,000, there were thousands of other cash prizes. Therefore the ASA deemed that consumers would have been disappointed to learn that the majority of the prizes were, in fact, lower value sums awarded as vouchers for use only on-board, and concluded that the claim was likely to mislead in breach of clauses 7.1 and 27.4 of the CAP Code.
Moreover, the ASA stated that clause 34.1(e) of the CAP Code clarified that promotions should specify clearly before any purchase the minimum number and nature of any prizes, and considered that the ad had failed to comply in this regard. However, the ASA did welcome easyJet's assurance that they would make amendments before advertising similar promotions.
2. The ASA recognised that there had been a "no purchase necessary" route as customers could choose to write in to easyJet with a stamped addressed envelope and receive a scratch card. Nevertheless the ASA considered that, in order to comply with clause 34.1(a) of the CAP Code, the free entry route should have been explained clearly in the ad itself, and not just on the website.
The ASA adjudicated that the ad had breached CAP Code clauses 7.1 (Truthfulness), 27.4 (Sales promotion rules), 34.1(e) (Significant conditions for promotions – prizes) and 34.1(a) (Significant conditions for promotions – how to participate).
Why this matters:
The ASA verdict in this case underlines that care should be taken before publishing only an edited version of promotion terms and conditions in some communication channels. Key terms should not be left to the online version of the terms, for example.
The case also emphasises that promotion advertising should not exaggerate the prizes on offer, activity that is now even more dangerous under the recently introduced…
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 ("CPRs") came into force on 26 May 2008. The CPRs prohibit unfair commercial practices (including advertising and marketing) by a trader in connection with the promotion, sale or supply of a product to consumers. If the easyJet ad had been published after 25th May 2008 it might have been contrary to the CPRs in the following ways:
(a) A commercial practice is said to be unfair if it is a misleading action. Under the CPR it is a misleading action if the main characteristics (including the results to be expected or the benefits) of the product deceive or are likely to deceive the average consumer in relation to any of these matters. As stated above, consumers may well have understood from the claim "Thousands of other cash prizes are also up for grabs" that, in addition to the first prize of £20,000, there were thousands of other cash prizes. This claim may well constitute a misleading action under the CPRs.
(b) the claim "Thousands of other cash prizes are also up for grabs" could arguably be considered to be one of the "always unfair" commercial practices listed in Schedule 1 of the CPRs. Offering a competition or prize promotion without awarding the prizes described or a "reasonable equivalent" is deemed to be "always unfair". Awarding vouchers redeemable on board flights may well not be viewed as a "reasonable equivalent" to cash prizes.