How can a contestant who has won a promotional prize still have the heart to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority? When the prize is not all it’s cracked up to be, that’s how. Stephen Groom reports on the winner scorned and the regulator’s response.
Topic: Promotion marketing
Who: Kenwood Travel Ltd
Where: The Advertising Standards Authority
When: April 2008
Law stated as at: 30 April 2008
A contestant won a promotional prize draw but still complained to the Advertising Standards Authority.
He had two beefs, both related to a national press ad for the draw.
The promoter was Kenwood Travel and the ad stated:
"WIN 2 RETURN FLIGHTS Win a pair of tickets to Barbados or St Lucia in a FREE PRIZE DRAW, courtesy of Virgin Atlantic & Kenwood Travel. No purchase necessary-see link below for details." A website address was given.
The winner's delight on being told of his good fortune was shortlived.
The promoters told him that he would have to stump up personally for airport taxes and security charges, totalling a stonking £280.
The first complaint that winged in shortly afterwards was that the ad was misleading for not mentioning this.
While he was at it, the disgruntled winner also complained about the ad's failure to give a closing date for entries.
Kenwood runs "limited space" defence
Kenwood admitted the ad was silent on the taxes, but pleaded lack of space and pointed out that all was clarified in the full terms and conditions. They added that to ensure that contestants were aware of all details and conditions, the entry mechanism required that all entrants ticked a "Terms and Conditions" box to show they had read them before submitting their entry.
On the lack of a closing date, the advertiser pleaded ignorance of any obligation on them to mention it in the ad. They said it was two weeks after the ad was published.
ASA not impressed
The ASA was unimpressed.
It referred to clause 34.1e of the CAP Code which required that promoters make clear the nature of any prizes.
In this context, this meant that a significant condition, such as the winner's obligation to fork out flight taxes and charges, was likely to influence a consumer's decision to take part in the promotion and should have been clear in the ad.
On the closing date issue, given that the closing date was such a short time away at two weeks, the ASA felt again that this was a significant condition that should have been made clear in the ad.
So both complaints were upheld.
Why this matters:
It should never be assumed that winners of prize promotions will be so overwhelmed with gratitude that they will happily overlook any tribulations that assail them during the prize experience.
Here, it is possible the outcome would have been different if the airport taxes and security payments had been say £5 and/or the closing date had been say 6 months off.
However the clear message of this verdict is that no matter what advertising space limitations may be, and regardless of whether an ad for a prize promotion includes a link to full terms and conditions easily available online, the safer course will always be to also mention in the ad, upfront, any "significant condition" that might be said to affect the punter's decision to enter.
Clearly this should as a default include the closing date.
Also, where promotional prizes include flights, given that airport taxes and other flight related extras are moving ever skywards, the normal approach must now be that if airport taxes and/or security charges are not included, this should be stated in all advertising that mentions the promotion, as well as in the full promotion rules.
Alternatively promoters might decide to pay the airport charges themselves and be done with it.