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.

Promotors should make select winners randomly or independently, make a reasonable attempt to inform winners and award the prize.

Selecting prize winners
Informing prize winners
Announcing prize winners

Selecting prize winners

Promoters of prize draws should ensure that prizes are awarded in accordance with the laws of chance. If a verifiably random computer process is used, the ASA would expect to see evidence of this. If such a computer programme has not been used winners must be selected under the supervision of an independent observer (rule 8.24).  Promoters must have evidence to demonstrate that the winner was selected randomly.

Picking names out of a hat is likely to be fine as long as someone unconnected with the promotion is there to ensure that it’s done fairly, and the promoter has evidence to demonstrate that this is the case.  Complaints about a promotion in which the prize winner was selected by a member of staff scrolling through the post’s comments and selecting one manually were upheld by the ASA, because a member of staff was not considered an independent person (Bellatricks Ltd, 01 September 2021).

The ASA also upheld complaints about a prize draw because, although the promoter explained that they had randomly selected a shortlist of 100 participants from a hat, and that they selected the final winner randomly from this shortlist, they provided the ASA with no evidence to demonstrate that this was the case (Molly-Mae Hague, 3 March 2021).

If the winner selection is open to subjective interpretation, there should always be an independent judge, or a panel that includes one independent member. In either case, the judge or panel member must be demonstrably independent, especially from the competition's promoters and intermediaries and from the pool of entrants from which the eventual winner is picked. Those appointed to act as judges should be competent to judge the competition and their full names must be made available on request (rule 8.26). If there is only one judge, they need to be independent, if there is a panel there should be a least one independent member. The ASA ruled that a promotion was unfairly administered and breached the Code where the promoter did not provide details of the independent panel of judges (Rebecca Penny t/a Bridleworks 28 January 2015). The ASA considered complaints about a promotion which was cancelled by the advertiser on the grounds that all of the entries recieved were poor quality. Because the entry the criteria for the promotion were not clearly set out, and because no independent judge or panel had been involved in the entry assesment, or decision to award the prize, the complaints were upheld (Abellio East Midlands Ltd t/a East Midlands Railway, 22 Sept 2021).

See also Promotional marketing: Independent judges and observers

Informing prize winners

The terms and conditions of a sales promotion should include information on how and when winners will be notified of results (Code rule 8.28.4). A tweet promoting a competition was upheld because there were no full terms and conditions, and it was not made clear to consumers how or when winners would be notified (Hard Rock Cafe (UK) Ltd, 11 February 2015).

Terms and conditions should make it clear how winners will be contacted.  If there are time limits on claiming prizes these should be made clear in the terms and conditions to avoid unnecessary disappointment. If the time limit is considered so significant that it may affect a consumer's understanding of the promotion and their decision on whether or not to participate this information is likely to be considered significant, and should be included in the ad itself (rule 8.17).  A complaint about an online display ad for a prize draw to win a weekend in Disneyland Paris was upheld by the ASA because it did not state that the winner must respond to the confirmation email within 24 hours of receiving it in order to claim the prize. Whilst the full terms and conditions did include this information, the ASA considered that, as there could have been any number of reasons why participants were not able to check their emails over the period, the requirement to respond within 24 hours was a significant condition that was likely to affect their understanding of the promotion and as such should have been prominently stated in the ad (The LTD t/a Zavvi, 13 February 2019). See Promotional Marketing: Terms and Conditions.

It is a promotor’s responsibility to ensure that they take adequate steps and make adequate attempts to contact winners and alert them to the fact they have won. Ringing a winner once will not be considered sufficient (Walkers Snacks Ltd 28 August 2013).

Announcing prize winners

Following a consultation on changes to its rules on the collection and use of data for marketing, CAP amended Code rule 8.28.5 on 28 March 2019. The previous rule which stated that promoters must publish, or make available the full name and county of all major prize winners has changed in line with the law on data protection, contained in the EU General Data Protection Regulation. The new rule states that promoters must either publish or make available information that indicates that a valid award took place – ordinarily the surname and county of major prizewinners and, if applicable, their winning entries. They must also inform entrants at or before the time of entry of their intention to publish or make available the information and give them the opportunity to object to this or to reduce the amount of information published or made available. In such circumstances, the promoter must nevertheless still provide the information and winning entry to the ASA if challenged.

Promoters may also wish to seek legal advice or contact the ICO to ensure that their promotions do not breach the GDPR.

See also Promotional marketing: Prize draws

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