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.

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". These types of promotion have generated many complaints in the past.

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 ‘Promotional marketing: Gifts v. prizes’.

Promoters should neither exaggerate consumers’ chances of winning prizes (Rule 8.20) nor imply consumers are luckier than they are by, for example, implying they have won or are likely to win a prize. Some 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’.

Promoters should not imply that prize money or a voucher for a stated amount will be awarded as a lump sum if the award comprises many prizes or vouchers of lesser value. 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’.

Promoters must not suggest entry to a promotion is the claiming route and vice versa. See ‘Promotional marketing: Free-entry routes’. 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 may 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.

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.

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