Who: Advertising Standards Agency (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 27 January 2020
Law stated as at: 30 March 2020
The ASA has investigated multiple “win a house” prize draws or competitions recently, in which promoters offer a house or property as a prize. The ASA has found that many were in breach of the CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) Code for various reasons, including – but not limited to – changing closing dates or other terms and conditions, withholding the prize as advertised, offering a significantly lower value cash prize, and omitting significant conditions.
The ASA has issued advice for the organisers of these prize draws and competitions to remind them of their responsibilities. The update does not contain any material changes from previous guidance, but serves as a reminder to businesses engaging in these kinds of promotions. The advice includes:
- Award the prize that you’ve advertised (rule 8.15.1). This requires prizes to be awarded as described in the ad or a reasonable equivalent. Substituting a prize of a house for a cash prize of significantly lower value is not a reasonable equivalent.
- Have a fixed and clear closing date (rule 8.17.4.a). This states that the closing date of a competition should usually be clearly stated in all promotional marketing, and rule 8.17.4.e states that the date should not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances make it necessary. Allowing the closing date to be changed in order to allow more time for paid entries to be received was found to be a breach of the Code.
- Consider whether a free-entry method is necessary. Prize promotions might be considered unlawful lotteries if participants are required to pay to enter. Rule 8.17.2 lists a free-entry route as a significant condition which should be included in the ad for the competition. Instructions stated at the bottom of a webpage, separate from the prominent links for purchasing tickets, were found to be not sufficiently prominent and therefore in breach.
- Ensure terms and conditions are accessible, and don’t mislead by omitting significant conditions. Alongside the free-entry route, ads should include all key conditions that are likely to influence a consumer’s decision on whether or not to participate. Terms and conditions must also be accessible throughout the duration of the promotion.
The full advice note is available here.
Why this matters:
The ASA’s decision to publish this guidance highlights the prevalence of these issues and breaches across the “win a house” competitions. This type of campaign will also inevitably appeal to those less able to access property, and promoters should therefore be mindful of their ads taking advantage of consumers, or failing to adequately inform them of the terms and conditions of the competition.
The guidance is also a useful reminder of some of the key rules that any prize promotion must comply with. In particular, the prize promotion should not be changed unless strictly necessary and free entry methods must be displayed upfront to potential participants.