Who: Coral Interactive (Gibraltar) Ltd (Coral) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
When: September 2016
Law stated as at: 13 October 2016
The ASA upheld three separate complaints against Coral, the online gambling operator, during the first half of September.
The rulings, which concerned targeted and time-restricted Euro 2016 and ‘sign-up bonus’ promotions, found that Coral’s ads were misleading, failed to call out significant conditions and were likely to cause consumers unnecessary disappointment. We consider each ruling in turn below.
Coral sent emails out to its mailing list and featured a pop-up advert on its website on the same day promoting free £10 bets for customers who placed an initial losing bet on an upcoming Euro 2016 game.
In the email, the offer was followed by prominent “Bet Now >>” hyperlinks, while further down the email Coral included the text “Terms and Conditions Apply *£/€10 FREE BET … Offer valid to bets struck from 8pm BST on the day before the nominated game until kick-off“.
The pop-up also featured the hyperlinked “Bet Now >>” imperative at the bottom of the main ad. At the bottom of the page a link was provided to the T&Cs, where, on clicking through, consumers could read a similar qualification: “offer valid to bets struck from 8pm BST on the day before the nominated game until kick-off”.
Two complaints were raised on the basis that Coral had failed to make the time-sensitive nature of the offer sufficiently clear. The ASA upheld the complaints.
In its ruling of 7 September (available here), the ASA found that by featuring the prominent “Bet Now” link, consumers would be led to believe that they could benefit from the offer at any point from receiving the offer until the relevant match. The ASA therefore considered the time restriction to be a significant condition which Coral should have made sufficiently clear to consumers by including it within the main body of the ad. By failing to do so, the ad breached CAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 and 3.10 (Qualification), and 8.17 and 8.17.1 (Significant conditions for promotions).
(mis)Targeted email promotion
The second ruling, also of 7 September, concerned an email from Coral promoting the offer: “... Bet £/€20 on any team to win the Euros & get a free £/€10 bet every time a British or Irish team scores in the first round of matches.*…“.
After placing their bets, some participants were informed that they weren’t in fact eligible to take part in the offer. Three complaints were brought on the grounds that the offer misleadingly implead that it was open to all those who received the email.
Coral explained that the targeted email was designed to be sent only to those eligible for the offer, but was instead sent out to some recipients with restricted accounts as a result of “human error” on the part of its third-party email provider.
The ASA upheld the complaints against Coral and full ruling can be read here. In coming to its decision, the ASA took account of the fact that the email had been a targeted communication addressed by name to each recipient. This, the ASA felt, would be likely to lead those recipients to understand they were eligible to take advantage of the offer. Not only was this promotion therefore misleading, in breach of CAP Code rule 3.1, but it carried the real possibility of causing disappointment to consumers. Rule 8.2, which provides that “Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment“, had also therefore been breached.
Targeted and time-sensitive offer
The third and final ASA ruling concerned an email sent out by Coral, ostensibly providing a welcome offer to new subscribers, which contained the following claim: “As a new customer, you’re entitled to a £20 FREE BET* to use online. All you need to do is login, place your first sports bet of £5+ and you’ll instantly receive your £20 free bet …“.
The complainant received this offer and placed a bet but subsequently discovered that the offer had actually expired. Coral explained that (once again) the email had been sent in error by its email provider. In any event, Coral noted the recipient would not have been eligible to take advantage of the promotion (if it had still been running) because he had already signed up for a separate Grand National offer and only one sign-up bonus can be used by each new customer.
The ASA upheld the complaint on similar grounds to the first two rulings (see the full ruling here). In particular, the ASA found that: (a) the ad was misleading because the email was specifically targeted at the recipient, who would therefore expect to be able to take advantage of the £20 free bet offer; and (b) because he was not eligible to take advantage of the offer in any event, Coral had not dealt fairly with the recipient and the ad was likely to cause him unnecessary disappointment.
Why this matters:
These rulings serve as a reminder that advertisers must ensure they clearly call out all significant conditions of a promotion. In general, this will mean featuring such conditions in the main body of the ad itself, rather than “one click away” via a T&Cs link or hidden in small text at the bottom of an email.
Advertisers must also make sure they treat consumers fairly when designing campaigns, including proper oversight of any third-party email providers. When sending out targeted emails to subscribers on a mailing list, advertisers can reduce the risk of causing unnecessary disappointment by ensuring that all recipients are eligible to take advantage of the advertised offer.