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ASA ruling on prize promotions: Highland Spring

Published on 24 September 2018

What information must be made available to prospective participants of a prize promotion in order to avoid unnecessary disappointment?

The background

A prize draw (seen on 23 February 2018 on the label of a Highland Spring water bottle) offered entrants the chance of an 'instant win'.  The label stated: 'Win prizes with H20omph, 10,000 to be won'.  Further text on the label stated:

'Open 01/02/18 - 30/06/18.  Enter online "instant" win at & enter details, bottle batch code and time stamp.  Prizes: 50 3-night stays for 4 (2 adults, 2 children 2-11 yrs) in an unusual location; 50 train journey experiences (2 adults); 9,900 experiences for 2-4D cinema, aqua assault course or Segway.  Restrictions apply.  Not all prizes may be won.  Retain bottle to claim.  No purchase necessary, NI and ROI only.  Bonus draw 01/07/18-31/12/18.  Ts&Cs on website.'

The complaint

The complainant challenged whether the promotion was misleading, on the basis that he/she understood than an entrant's time stamp would have to correspond with the "moment" randomly selected by a computer system.

The response

Highland Spring made the following statements:

  • there were ten thousand prizes available to be won from 1 February 2018 to 30 June 2018, with a final 'bonus draw' between 1 July 2018 and 31 December 2018;
  • entrants needed to submit a promo code found on their bottle, which consisted of a time code and batch stamp;
  • the promo code needed to be submitted during a winning "moment", being a second-long period selected at random, to win a prize;
  • the terms and conditions were provided on the bottle, and full terms and conditions were available on the promotional website.  The relevant section in the full terms and conditions stated:  'Prizes are allocated randomly to predetermined winning moments (‘Winning Moments’) via a secure, independently verified computer system.  The entry submitted at the relevant Winning Moment will win a Prize.  Although all Prizes are available to be won, there is no guarantee they will all be won'; and
  • there was an expectation that consumers would read the terms and conditions of a promotion and the packaging stated prizes were available to be won, but not guaranteed.

The development

The complaint was upheld.

The CAP Code states marketers must be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants, and must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.  Further, marketing communications must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information was likely to mislead participants.

The ASA noted that the back of the label stated 'not all prizes may be won', but the short terms and conditions on the label did not give any information regarding how the promotion would work or explained how likely a participant was to win a prize.  The ASA considered that the information provided on the label meant the most likely expectation was that the bottle batch code would determine whether a prize would be won, and not all prizes would be won because not everyone with a winning code would claim their prize.

The ASA understood that neither the batch code nor any other information on a specific bottle determined whether a participant won a prize.  A prize was instead awarded if a participant entered their details at exactly the same second as randomly determined by a computer.  Each prize was linked to a 'winning moment' and if no participant entered their details during a 'winning moment', the relevant prize would not be won.

Therefore, the ASA considered that it was possible that the number of prizes which would be won could be significantly lower than 10,000 and the chances of winning a prize were much lower than the information on the label suggested.  The ASA further considered that terms relating to the awarding of prizes were likely to significantly influence a consumer's understanding and decision to participate in a prize promotion.  As such, it was not sufficient for significant conditions to only appear in the full terms and conditions available on the website.

As the bottle's label did not make it clear how prizes would be allocated or to otherwise manage prospective participants' expectations of the likelihood of winning, the ASA considered the promotion was misleading and that it had caused unnecessary disappointment for participants.

Why is this important?

Despite the packaging stating not all prizes may be won, and the full terms and conditions being provided on the promotional website, the ASA considered that this was still not enough information to avoid unnecessary disappointment to participants. The ASA confirmed all significant conditions need to be communicated to prospective participants in order for them to understand how prizes will be allocated and to decide whether to participate in the prize promotion.

Any practical tips?

Ensure that all significant information is communicated to prospective participants, particularly on labelling/short form terms and conditions.  Where a prize promotion utilises specific mechanics to allocate prizes that may affect a participant's decision to enter the promotion, promoters need to ensure that these are communicated to participants, or to otherwise manage participants' expectations of the likelihood of winning.