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.


Free scratchcards are often distributed as free inserts in newspapers and magazines and usually involve recipients having to scratch off one or more panels to see whether they have "won" a "prize". Scratchcards should not exaggerate participants’ chances of winning, create confusion between gifts and prizes, describe prizes inaccurately or include a cost to claim.

Do not confuse prizes and gifts
Do not exaggerate consumers’ chance of winning
Describe the prize clearly and accurately
Do not have a cost to claim 
Comply with the rules on promotional marketing

Do not confuse prizes and gifts

Promoters should distinguish clearly between prizes and gifts (Rule 8.19). If a significant proportion of participants in a promotion are entitled to a gift it should not be described as a prize; it can be described as a "gift", "award", "reward" or similar  (see JDM Marketing Ltd t/a Bright-Life UK, 04 November 2015). Several factors might help determine what constitutes a “significant proportion”, for example, the relative proportions of potential prize winners and potential gift recipients; the mechanisms by which promoters offer gifts and prizes; and the relative values of the prizes and gifts when compared with each other.

See ‘Promotional marketing: Gifts v. prizes’.

Do not exaggerate consumers’ chance of winning

Promoters should neither exaggerate consumers’ chances of winning prizes (Rule 8.20) nor imply consumers are luckier than they are by, for example, using words like ‘finalist’, or implying they have won or are likely to win a prize (8.21). Promoters should not falsely claim or imply that consumers have won, will win or will, on doing something, win a prize if that prize does not exist (8.21.1).

In the past, promoters have used the technique of distributing two scratchcards together and ensuring that one card is a “winner” and one a “loser”. Although half the cards are “losing” ones, promoters should not describe the others as “winning” cards or state that recipients are lucky to receive them, because all recipients nonetheless receive a “winning” card (Abstract Games Ltd t/a Mediaprom Ltd, 20 May 2009).

See ‘Promotional marketing: Implying recipients are luckier than they are’.

Describe the prize clearly and accurately

Prizes must be described clearly and accurately, and any prize claims should not mislead consumers. Promoters should not imply that prize money or vouchers for a stated amount will be awarded as a lump sum if the prize comprises many prizes or vouchers of lesser value. A prize must not be presented as a cash prize, if the prize is awarded as vouchers.

Promoters offering vouchers as prizes or gifts should ensure that significant conditions attached to their use are stated clearly. See ‘Promotional marketing: Terms and conditions’.

Do not have a cost to claim

Rule 8.21.1 states that promoters must not claim or imply that someone has won, will win or will, on doing a particular act win a prize if the consumer must incur a cost to claim the prize.  The ASA upheld complaints against a promotion which required consumers to ring a premium rate service to claim an award and stated the cost because the 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). Although not specifically a scratchcard promotion, the same reasoning would apply to scratchcards and promoters must not require “winners” to phone a premium-rate line to claim their prize or gift, or offer any other route where consumers will incur a cost to claim a prize.

Promoters must not create confusion between an entry route and a claiming route, or suggest that entry to a promotion is the claiming route and vice versa. See ‘Promotional marketing: Free-entry routes’.

Comply with the rules on promotional marketing

When running any promotion, marketers must ensure that the promotion complies with all relevant Code rules in Section 8 of the Code. Ads for promotions must include all significant conditions, and provide full terms and conditions (Rules 8.17 and 8.28). Promoters must award prizes as described, or a reasonable equivalent (Rule 8.15.1), must administer promotions properly (Rule 8.14), and must treat participants fairly and honourably (Rule 8.2).

See also Promotional marketing: Prize winners, Promotional marketing: Mystery gifts and prizes, Promotional marketing: Instant wins and other promotional marketing entries.

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. Also, promoters might want to seek legal advice.


More on