Thanks to careful drafting of the promotional rules, the Daily Mail was recently able to fall back on them when too many winning scratch-cards were printed. For more on this and other promotion mishap points to watch.
Topic: Games of skill & chance
Who: The Daily Mail
When: September 2003
Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, ran a "Who wants to be a millionaire" scratchcard game in the Daily Mail. In each week's game, prize levels of £1,000, £2,000, £4,000, £16,000 and £125,000 were available.
In one week of the promotion, however, a printing error led to cards being printed with the wrong numbers. This in turn resulted in more claims from "winners" than the number of prizes available.
After its switchboard became blocked with callers who thought they had won, the Mail published an apology saying that due to the error, all "winning cards" were being declared void. The rules of the "Millionaire" game apparently allowed them to do this, but the Mail did offer a consolation prize by way of a "guaranteed cash prize" for all readers who had lodged a "winning" claim by a certain time, and a special prize draw devoted to those card holders in which they would have a further chance of winning the original variety of cash prizes.
Why this matters:
In a previous similar scenario involving Mirror Group Newspapers a few years ago (see the marketinglaw archives) the Mirror had to fight off a legally aided claim by one of the putative winners of a prize promotion, and at one time faced a total exposure running into many millions. The fundamental problem there was that the full rules of the game, including the rule which entitled the Mirror to declare entry cards void, were not published on each and every occasion that the promotion was featured in the Mirror.
One hopes for the Daily Mail's sake that this was no the case here, since it is critical, if newspapers wish to be able to deal with disasters of this kind, that promotion rules not only cover this sort of state of affairs, but are also brought to the attention of potential participants at all possible times.
This is not to say that a right in the small print to scrap aspects of prize promotions will always save the day. Promoters should always be aware of the 1999 Unfair Terms and Consumer Contracts Regulations. These render unenforceable any provision in a consumer contract which goes further than it needs to in order to reasonably protect the interests of the promoter.
There are circumstances where a right to simply declare all entries void, without, for instance, running an alternative draw, could fall foul of the Regulations. However, one imagines that the Mail's "voidability" clause was drafted with these regulations in mind, and their generous offer of cash awards and a further draw will hopefully have mollified the disappointed punters.