Ad description

A competition in the Halifax Courier offered consumers the opportunity to win a wedding. Text stated "WIN A FABULOUS WEDDING PACKAGE WORTH £10,000!" Under the heading "How to enter", text stated "Simply send us a photo of yourselves (couple) and write in less than 100 words why you should win the prize ... An entry pack will be sent out to all entrants with full details and rules".

A letter sent to individuals selected as finalists stated "Congratulations, you've made it into The Final! ... Here is some vital information for our contestants ... The winners will be decided by public vote. Votes can be cast by text or by an official voting form printed in the Halifax Courier newspaper ... We will only accept official voting forms from the Halifax Courier and any photocopied forms will be discounted. Votes can be cast via our text line ... YOUR VOTES COUNT! Tell your friends, tell your relatives, tell everyone you can! The more votes you get, the better your chance of winning. You can vote as many times as you like with an official voting form (one vote per voucher) and we're even sending you a free poster for you to drum up support from your family, friends and neighbours. Facebook & Twitter are also fantastic ways to drum up support!". Further text listed the competition rules, none of which regarded voting restrictions.

A subsequent ad appeared in the Halifax Courier and promoted the competition's finalists. Text stated "WHO GETS YOUR VOTE? ... Vote By Post: Simply complete the voting form on the right. Anyone can vote and as many times as they wish, as long as your vote is on an official voting form, from the Halifax Courier ... VOTE BY TEXT ...".


The complainant challenged whether the promotion had been administered fairly, as restrictions regarding voting tactics were not included in the terms and conditions and he believed that those restrictions were not applied to all finalists.


The Halifax Courier Ltd (Halifax Courier) stated that the individual who had managed the competition internally had since left the company and they had not been able to gain access to some of the information originally sent out to the competition contestants, including the competition entry pack. Therefore, they could not be sure what communications had been sent out to participants, including the finalists and were unable to confirm the full terms and conditions that were issued to competitors.

They provided copies of the advertisements for the promotion which were placed in the paper and which set out the terms and conditions that applied to the competition. They explained that their standard practice was to include a reference to the Johnston Press terms and conditions which were available on their website, but that unfortunately for the competition in question a link to their full terms and conditions was not included in the advertisement and only those terms specific to the competition appeared. They highlighted, however, that the terms and conditions on the advertisement did include a specific reference to the fact that the editor reserved the right to exclude any couple deemed unsuitable. They noted that those terms and conditions did not specifically refer to the tactics used by the complainant (offering consumers entry into a third-party shop's prize draw in return for votes in his favour in the Halifax Courier competition), hence they were not excluded from the competition and instead were simply asked to stop running their own prize draw.

Halifax Courier stated that they had received complaints about the complainant's use of the prize draw tactic and had therefore contacted him to ask him to cease. In contrast, they explained that they had not received any complaints that other finalists, including the winning couple, were using similar tactics during the promotion, and that claims of such tactics were only brought to their attention by the complainant after the competition had closed and the prize had been awarded. They also stated that they had not received any conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the winning couple had used a similar tactic to win the competition. They stated, however, that if they had been notified of such behaviour during the promotion, they would have taken steps to contact those contestants and ask them also to stop.



The ASA understood that the complainant was a finalist in the competition and, in an attempt to secure the highest number of votes possible, had arranged for a friend who owned a fashion boutique to promote the couple and ask customers to vote for them in exchange for entry into a prize draw. We noted that the Halifax Courier had received a complaint about the tactic and had then contacted the complainant to ask him to stop.

We noted that the letter sent to all finalists stated "Here is a reminder of the competition rules ..." and then listed a number of terms and conditions, none of which referred to the voting tactics contestants could use, or should not use, to ensure the promotion was fair to all participants. We also noted a number of other claims in the letter such as "Tell your friends, tell your relatives, tell everyone you can! The more votes you get, the better your chance of winning", "Facebook & Twitter are also fantastic ways to drum up support!", and further text that encouraged finalists to purchase multiple promotional posters and to pre-order papers on voting days to ensure they had as many voting slips as possible. We therefore considered that the overall tone of the letter was that finalists could, and should, do whatever possible to secure the highest number of votes. In the absence of any specific rules advising contestants that particular tactics were not allowed, and that the paper reserved the right to exclude contestants if they were considered to be using tactics that put them at an unfair advantage, we considered contestants would believe there were no restrictions, with the exception of legal restrictions, placed on the methods they could use to canvas votes.

We noted the promoter's assertion that they had not received any accusations or complaints that the other finalists had used similar tactics during the promotion, and they had not seen conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the winning couple had also run a prize draw. We considered, however, that, as there were no restrictions set out in the terms and conditions regarding the tactics contestants could use, it was possible that some or all of the other finalists had used similar tactics.

Because the promoter had introduced restrictions to the voting tactics that finalists could use retrospectively, we concluded that the promotion had been administered unfairly and had breached the Code

The promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  8.2 8.2 Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.  (Sales promotions),  8.14 8.14 Promoters must ensure that their promotions are conducted under proper supervision and make adequate resources available to administer them. Promoters, agencies and intermediaries should not give consumers justifiable grounds for complaint.  (Administration),  8.17.1 8.17.1 How to participate
How to participate, including significant conditions and costs, and other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers' decision or understanding about the promotion
 (Significant Conditions for Promotions) and  8.23 8.23 Promoters must avoid rules that are too complex to be understood and they must only exceptionally supplement or amend conditions of entry with extra rules. In such circumstances, promoters must tell participants how to obtain the supplemental or amended rules and they must contain nothing that could reasonably have influenced consumers against buying or participating.  (Prize promotions).


We told the Halifax Courier to ensure promotions were administered fairly and that significant conditions of promotions were made clear in future.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

8.14     8.17.1     8.2     8.23    

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