ASA ruling on significant information: I Can Have It Ltd
Is including significant information on a competition landing page enough? Or do you need to include this information in an individual competition listing? And how clear do you have to be if there is no closing date about how a competition is administered and the potential length of each competition?
Four competitions listed on the website 'www.icanhaveit.com' were seen on 28 November 2017. These were competitions for: (a) a Ford Ecosport Titanium; (b) a Microsoft Surface Pro 4, which was labelled as 'New' and text stated 'play to win the latest from Microsoft: the Surface Pro 4 128GB'; (c) a Canon EOS7D Digital SLR; and (d) a Citroen C4 Cactus. All four competitions included a link labelled 'Need Help – How to Play', which when clicked caused a pop-up box to appear which stated '3 Simple Steps Pick a Category Answer a Question Pick a number Correct answer + lowest unique number wins Watch Video'.
The complainant, who had paid to enter a number of competitions in 2016, challenged whether the competition breached the CAP Code as they were still being promoted.
I Can Have It stated the relevant competitions were not date driven, and were instead driven by the number of tickets sold. As such, they could not provide fixed end dates of the competitions as they were dependent on the popularity of the relevant prize. It was explained that the four to six month competition period referenced in the FAQs section of the website was only an indication of what was expected, and not a guarantee. I Can Have It stated that their website explained 'everywhere' that a competition closed when all tickets had been sold. They further explained that they were unable to put a closing date on any competition and did not have the information in order to base an estimated closing date. It was confirmed that as at June 2018, competition (b) had closed but the other adverts had only sold a few hundred tickets. I Can Have It stated they would amend the website to show the opening date and a live update of how many tickets had been sold for each listing.
The complaint was upheld.
The ASA understood consumers would access the competitions via a page which stated 'each competition has many prizes to choose from and a limited number of tickets. When all the tickets in a competition are played, the competition closes and the winner is announced'. The ASA considered consumers would therefore understand there were a limited number of tickets, and the competition would end when all the tickets were sold. However, that information was not included on the specific listings of individual competitions. Instead, the 'Need Help – How to Play' link on individual listings meant that consumers would understand from individual listings that to enter they needed to purchase a ticket, answer a question and select a number.
The ASA noted the FAQs stated competitions could last up to four to six months, but also that the complainant had entered a number of competitions in 2016 which were still being promoted in November 2017. The 'winners' page on the website stated none of the high value items had been won, and the ASA further noted that there had only been six winners in 2016 and one winner in 2017 (but no winners of high value items). The ASA noted that the competition for the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 had closed in June 2018, but the other three competitions had only sold a few hundred tickets and were still open.
The ASA considered that as competitions could be open for years before all tickets were sold, the lack of clear information regarding the length of the competition and no information about the number of tickets sold, plus the absence of any closing date meant that consumers were disadvantaged as they could not make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase a ticket. As such, the ASA concluded that the ads omitted significant information about how the competitions would be run and their likely closing dates, and were therefore misleading.
Why is this important?
The ASA considered that the competition access page on the I Can Have It website made it clear that there were a limited number of tickets and a competition would end when those tickets had been sold. However, because the individual competition listings did not include this information, the ASA considered that consumers were at a disadvantage and significant information had been omitted, meaning the adverts were misleading. This highlights the importance of including all significant information on the relevant pages, and not just a cover page.
Any practical tips?
Ensure that specific pages or listings for promotions include all significant information (in this case, if competitions are likely to run for a long time, include this information in each ad) in order not to be considered misleading. It is not enough to have a landing page which sets out such information; instead, it must be restated for each individual promotion/competition.