“The Skinny” online magazine offered a Samsung Galaxy tablet prize in a free to enter competition promoting the Edinburgh International Science Festival. The winner took 6 days to respond to the email telling her she had won and was told she was too late. Stephen Groom reports on the verdict of the ASA following an ensuing Institute of Promotional Marketing complaint.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Advertising Standards Authority and Radge Media trading as The Skinny
When: November 2011
Law stated as at: 5 December 2011
The Institute of Promotional Marketing complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, challenging whether a prize promotion had been administered fairly.
The promotion offered a Samsung Galaxy Tab as first prize and was featured in online magazine The Skinny. The Skinny was published by Radge Media and the promotion was operated in conjunction with the organisers of Edinburgh International Science Festival.
Entrants were asked to correctly state the date of the festival (which was mentioned in copy just above the promotion entry location on the webpage) to win the prize. The closing date of 30 April 2011 was mentioned and the full Terms and Conditions were available at a website address listed in the ad. These included:"12.1.3: Winners will be notified via email after the closing date and prior to the expiry date of the prize".
The winner was duly selected and Radge emailed her at 10.05 am on 3 May. This did not specify any time by which the recipient had to respond to make sure she received the prize. By 9.44 am on 6 May no reply had been received , so Radge emailed her again, this time saying that to qualify to receive the prize, the recipient had to respond by the evening of 8 May.
All this time the "winner" had been away on holiday and blissfully unaware, but as soon as she returned on 9 May, she contacted Radge, only to be told that she forfeited her prize due to not responding by the deadline set in the second email.
In their defence following the complaint to the ASA, Radge said they believed the response time specified in the second email was reasonable and sufficient in light of the average response times of competition winners The Skinny dealt with on a regular basis. They noted they had not received any notification that the winner had not received the message that she had won by way of e-mail responder or auto-response, and stated that if they had been aware the original winner had been on holiday and had known her return date, they would have awaited her return.
The ASA was not assuaged. They said that in the absence of any information in the ad or the promotion terms and conditions setting out a final date by which a prize should be claimed, they did not consider that six days was a reasonable period of time to allow a winner to respond. Furthermore, they did not consider that it was common practice for people to leave an 'out of office' notification on personal e-mail accounts.
The complaint was therefore upheld.
Why this matters:
This decision underlines why it is best practice to include detailed winner notification arrangements in prize promotion terms and conditions, including the time within which putative winners must respond to winner notifications to be sure of receiving their prize. It also indicates that even if Radge had included the required winner response time in the detailed rules, 6 days would still have been regarded as insufficient.
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