As France Today discovered recently, offering prizes in competitions can be fraught with difficulty.

What was promised?

France Today offered a competition prize of a hot air balloon flight for two in France worth €1,000. Their terms said that the prize would have to be redeemed in a defined period, that it was subject to availability, that there was no cash alternative and that, if the prize could not be supplied, France Today would have no liability.

What happened?

The prize winner travelled to the launch site in France at his own cost on the agreed date. But the balloon trip was cancelled due to bad weather. He was offered an alternative prize of a balloon flight at the following year’s balloon festival.

He complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

What did the ASA think?

Stating “subject to availability” was not enough. It did not relieve the promoter of the obligation to do everything reasonable to avoid disappointing the prize winner. The alternative prize would involve the winner in further travel and accommodation costs, in addition to the original costs. The promoter should have taken this into account in deciding what was a reasonable alternative offer.

The ASA also thought that the high risk of cancellation due to adverse weather should have been spelt out more clearly in the terms.

All of this led the ASA to conclude that the advert for the prize competition breached the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) and must not appear in that form again.

Things to think about before launching a prize competition

As well as complying with the detailed provisions of the CAP Code (and, in particular, section 8 on promotional marketing) (see www.asa.org.uk), promoters of prize competitions need to take account of a range of issues, including:

  • Avoiding creating an unlawful lottery;
  • Avoiding creating a false impression about the chances of winning (and committing an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008);
  • Complying with the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 regarding the collection and use of personal data.