Fulham’s Blue Elephant restaurant ran an online “Create your own cocktail” competition with a Thai holiday prize including dinner for two at the Blue Elephant Bangkok. But was the whole holiday for two? Omar Bucchioni shakes rather than stirs the ingredients.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: ASA and Blue Elephant Ltd
Where: United Kingdom
When: 19 August 2009
Recently the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated an online competition for a holiday in Thailand. For more information please see: http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_46767.htm.
The online competition stated:
“BLUE ELEPHANT Cocktail Competition 2009 Create your own unique cocktail with ‘Mekhong’ the original Thai spirit to win a Royal Orchid Holiday package to Thailand … PRIZE: THE WINNER – One Royal Orchid Holiday package to Thailand in a luxury 5 star hotel. – Complimentary one course cooking class at Blue Elephant Cooking School. – Complimentary dinner for two at the Blue Elephant in Bangkok … RULES: All the recipes that comply with the conditions of the competition are to be registered into the contest … The finals will be held at Blue Elephant restaurant …”.
The ASA received a complaint from the winner of the first prize who challenged whether the competition was misleading because it did not make clear the significant terms and conditions attached to the prize. The key issue was that the Royal Orchid holiday package (return flight and hotel accommodation) and the cooking class were all for ONE person; whilst the dinner at the Blue Elephant restaurant in Bangkok was for two people.
The Blue Elephant is an International Thai Cuisine chain of restaurants. They replied to the ASA saying that although they accepted that the online competition details referred to “dinner for two” at their Bangkok restaurant (which may have led some customers to believe that the entire package was for two people), however, when the winner expressed dissatisfaction with the prize she had won, they negotiated with her and eventually she accepted the offer of:
The Blue Elephant paying for her flight and taxes, a second flight for her guest and a cookery class for two, although the winner still had to pay the taxes on the second flight, hotel accommodation in Bangkok and transfers.
No clear statement that the holiday was for one
The ASA read the available information and nowhere was it stated that the holiday package was for one person only. In addition, the winner was only told at a later stage (i.e. when she tried to arrange to receive the prize) that she would have to pay all airport taxes and surcharges for the flight. Also excluded was the transfer from the airport in Phuket to the hotel (100 km away from Phuket). Furthermore, she was told she would have to bear the cost of travelling from her hotel in Phuket to the dinner at the Blue Elephant restaurant in Bangkok (500 miles away) and the only dates when she was allowed to take the holiday were May to September 2009.
No Ts and Cs available to access when entering the competition
The ASA discovered that the online competition details made no mention of any of the above conditions or costs, and understood that no terms and conditions were available for entrants to access at the time of entering the competition, or at any subsequent point.
Indeed the ASA understood that no terms and conditions had been officially drawn up, because The Blue Elephant had not provided them with any despite their request for a copy.
The Advertising Code states that promotions should specify clearly (before or at the time of entry):
- how to participate (including significant conditions and costs) and
- any other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers’ decisions or understanding about the promotion.
It also stipulates that participants should be able to
- retain the conditions or have easy access to them throughout the promotion, and
- ads for promotions should specify all the significant conditions that were applicable.
The ASA considered it was unacceptable that the first time the significant conditions and costs were made clear was at the point of the winner trying to claim her prize and ordered that the ad must not appear again in its current form.
Why this matters:
Promoters must make clear all significant conditions attached to entering a prize promotion or to the prize itself. Terms and conditions need to be drawn up and must be available for entrants to easily view before they enter.