A Birmingham commercial radio station listener thought she had won the prize of accompanying presenter Rick Vaughan to Athens to watch the Champions League final. Why did Ofcom end up adjudicating on the case? Omar Bucchioni blows the whistle.
Topic: Promotion marketing
When: October 2007
Law stated as at: 22 February 2008
Some listeners to Birmingham-based BRMB had entered into a competition whose prize was described as a chance for 100 people to win “tickets to go to Athens and watch the Champions League final”. The competition was broadcast on the station’s Drivetime show. Ofcom received a complaint that a competition prize was inaccurately described and therefore listeners were misled when encouraged to participate in the competition.
The complainant’s wife entered the competition when the presenter described the competition as an opportunity to accompany him to Athens and watch the Champions League Final. The lady was later contacted to say that she had won but that there was some bad news as reported by Ofcom here. Reason being that the winners would not even have left their home town as “Athens” was in fact a Greek restaurant in Birmingham.
Despite an offer made by the station to refund the cost of the text (25p at the standard rate), the complainant contacted Ofcom. Further to the complaint, Ofcom asked the broadcaster to comment on this complaint in light of Rule 2.11 “Competitions should be conducted fairly, prizes should be described accurately and rules should be clear and appropriately made known”.
Radio Station case
As reported by Ofcom, GCap Radio, which owns BRMB, said that the station wanted to ensure that listeners were having fun and they believed to have achieved this. The radio maintained that there was no attempt by the BRMB to mislead or deceive its listeners and that genuine creativity was also a need for a radio station to compete in a very competitive market.
The radio also maintained that the prize was described in good faith and that sufficient clues were given to listeners throughout the promotion that the prize was not a trip to Athens in Greece and at one point BRMB mentioned that “Athens was in Brum” not “in Greece”. Also an interview with the owner of “Athens” gave sufficient clue to listeners, they said. In addition, even the fact that the radio station advised people to arrive at BRMB for 3pm on the day of the match should have raised listeners’ concerns (taking into account the time difference and flight time to Greece from the UK).
The complainant contacted the station after realising that his wife had not won a trip to Greece but a dinner at a local restaurant.
Ofcom held that the first clue to the fact that the venue was in Athens in Birmingham and not Athens in Greece was given on the 22 May, seven days after the launch of the promotion. By that time a number of listeners had already been encouraged to enter into the competition. Also the interview with the restaurant manager, which took place on the 21 May, did not help listeners as it was very enigmatic about the real venue.
It followed that Ofcom found the competition in breach of Rule 2.11 of the Ofcom regulations because the promotion “had been executed in a manner designated to obscure the true nature of the prize”
Why this matters:
Ofcom Code Rule 2.11 and its guidance underline that it is essential that competition prizes should be described accurately and rules should be clear and appropriately made known.
The same applies in a non broadcast context. Also, promoters must not lose sight of the fact that whatever the medium in which the promotion is run, they have a contract with all participants and could be at risk of a breach of contract or misrepresentation claim if potential entrants might be materially misled regarding the nature of prizes.