ASA Adjudication on Meeeeet.com
Reserva del Higueron’s Country Club
Avd. Del Higueron 48
3 October 2012
Internet (sales promotion), Internet (social networking)
Number of complaints:
An online competition on Piingwin.com's Facebook page was headed "win the new iPad!". Text stated "Do you think you are the most dedicated Piingwin.com fan? Enough to become the next Mayor of Piingwincity? Prove it by entering our photo contest before the 28th of May 2012. Run for Mayor by uploading a picture of you and your favourite penguin. The fan that receives the most votes will be elected Mayor of Piingwincity and get the new iPad!". A post on 24 May stated "Due to a large amount of complaints regarding the veracity of the votes of some of our candidates, we have decided that we will pick the winner by judging. The winner will be picked the 1st of June among the top ten of the most voted candidates".
A participant challenged whether the competition was conducted fairly, because the rules were amended during the promotion.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Meeeeet said the competition was the first that they had organised on Facebook. They allowed one vote per Facebook profile, but became aware that some entrants were receiving an unusually high number of votes within a short space of time and, on further investigation, found that some people were actively exchanging or buying votes, with many votes originating from the same IP addresses. They said they received complaints from some participants that other entrants were cheating and at that stage decided to change the rules of the competition. Instead of the winning photo being chosen by the most votes received, the winner was selected by a panel of five employees based on the funniest and most entertaining entry and the effort put in to the picture.
Meeeet said the ten finalists were the entries that received the most votes after the disputed votes were removed from the participants' count. They checked the votes to see which profiles they had originated from and removed any more than four votes coming from identical IPs; four being a likely number of household members to emanate from the same IP address. They informed all participants of the reasons why they had amended the competition judging rules. Meeeeet said, after the unhappy experience with the competition, they were unlikely to organise anymore in the future.
The ASA understood the reasons why Meeeet had changed the rules during the competition, but nonetheless considered that altering the judging criteria had put many participants at a significant disadvantage. Entrants were originally required to simply provide a photo with their favourite penguin and the person who received the most votes would be 'elected' mayor and win the iPad. However, after the entries were received, the winner was judged on the effort involved and entertainment value, elements that had not been mentioned before.
We also noted the CAP Code required an independent judge or a panel to include one independent member when the selection of a competition winning entry is open to subjective interpretation, which we understood did not happen in this case. We acknowledged the efforts Meeeeet took to remove the invalid votes, but reminded them that they should have systems in place to ensure competitions were administered equitably and effectively and to prevent, or at least minimise, voting irregularities. We understood that they altered the judging criteria as an attempt to be fair to all entrants, but in doing so actually put participants at a disadvantage.
Because the judging criteria was significantly changed and thereby altered the basis of entry, we considered that the competition had not been conducted equitably and efficiently and had caused unnecessary disappointment to entrants. We therefore concluded that the competition had breached the Code.
The competition breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 8.2, 8.23 and 8.26 (Sales promotions).
We understood the competition had ended. We told Meeeeet to ensure that they had suitable internal systems in place so that future competitions were administered equitably and effectively.