As yet another ASA “Complaint upheld” finding is reported in respect of mailings supposedly offering “guaranteed” winnings, the threat of US-style sweepstakes legislation grows.
Topic: Games of chance and skill
Who: Brookmeyer and Van Gent and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: January 2002
Yet again, the ASA has been called on to deal with an at best confusing mailing promoting a prize sweepstake and suggesting that all the recipient needs to do in order to claim their "guaranteed" prize is to send in a claim. There was also other verbiage which was ambiguous as to whether an additional payment of £14.95 for a "premium" might or might not be linked to the individual's ability to claim the prize. As in many cases before with other organisations sending out such mailings, there was no response from Brookmeyer to the ASA's enquiries and the complaint was upheld.
Why this matters:
As previously reported in marketinglaw.co.uk, our American friends have been this way before and the regulators have introduced federal and in some states even more restrictive legislation putting very tight curbs on mailings of this kind. The latest example is a proposed "Oklahoma Sweepstakes Act". This will make it a criminal offence punishable by fine of between $5,000 and $50,000, to breach a broad swathe of requirements as to what can and cannot be said in these mailings. Like the Texas equivalent before it, the Oklahoma Act also proposes the imposition of fines on any entity that provides mailing lists for use by sweepstakes marketers indulging in practices that contravene the legislation.
Also part of the US legislation in this area is now a federal statutory "Sweepstakes Preference Service". This allows any individual who does not wish to receive mailings promoting prize events of any kind to register with a central preference list. He or she can then take civil proceedings for damages against any company which persists in sending that individual prize promo mailings. So far we have avoided such draconian and restrictive legislation here in the UK, but if ASA cases of the kind reported here continue with the same relentless regularity, it can only be a matter of time before UK legislators decide it is time to act.