Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

A “free entry” or “no purchase necessary” (“NPN”) route allows consumers to enter a promotion without paying or by paying no more than the minimum unavoidable cost of entering a promotion (for example the minimum rate of postage, the cost of a telephone call or the minimum, unavoidable cost of sending an e-mail or SMS text message). CAP has been asked whether promoters could require participants to call a premium-rate service if the cost of making that call was less than, or equal to, the cost of a first-class stamp. CAP believes that this is unlikely to be acceptable, but directing participants to a website address is an acceptable free entry-route.

Having to buy a product to enter a prize draw is likely to be acceptable, provided the cost of that product has not been changed to reflect the opportunity to participate. Examples of prices that reflect the opportunity to participate include increasing the price of a promotional pack compared to non-promotional packs before, during or after the prize promotion or reducing the quality or composition of the paid-for product or service during the promotion. In such circumstances, a free entry or NPN route will still be required in the UK generally.

Regardless of whether a promoter is required to have a free entry route, or has chosen to do so, information about it is considered a significant term and should be stated in the initial advertising material. The free-entry route should be explained clearly and prominently (See Promotional marketing: Terms and Conditions). It should be of a size and form that is readily found, equitable, understood and used by consumers. It should also be genuine and realistic and promoters should not discriminate against those who want to enter the promotion using the free-entry route.

Promoters should not confuse entry routes and claiming routes. The ASA upheld complaints against an ad for a promotion which required consumers to ring a premium rate service to claim an award because, although the cost was stated, rule 8.21.1 of the CAP Code prohibits promotions where consumers incur a cost to claim a prize or equivalent benefit (Churchcastle Ltd t/a Spencer & Mayfair 2011, 20 February 2013).

In Northern Ireland, prize promoters are currently still subject to the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended). However, in practice under EU law, there is no longer likely to be a requirement to always offer consumers an NPN route; promoters may wish to obtain legal advice if running promotions in Northern Ireland.

This advice is designed to be read in conjunction with the Promotional marketing section of the CAP Code and the other entries in this advice section.

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