Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Upheld.
An online banner ad for bet365 stated "£200 FREE BETS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS … JOIN NOW". Smaller text below stated "Terms & Conditions Apply".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it did not make clear that:
1. consumers would need to make a substantial financial commitment to receive the advertised £200 free bets; and
2. the deposit and bonus had to be played through three times before funds could be withdrawn.
1. & 2. Bet365 Group Ltd (bet365) said UK consumers were comfortable with 'free bet' terminology, which was used as standard by the industry, and were aware that such offers had conditions associated with them. They said the banner ad had been amended following a previous ASA adjudication, to include the text "Terms & Conditions Apply". The landing page at which consumers would arrive after clicking on the banner ad also included the text "200 FREE BETS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS", along with a hyperlink labelled "Terms & Conditions Apply". That hyperlink took users directly to the terms and conditions of the promotion, which included the text "Open an account, make a deposit of £10* or more and you will be entitled to a 100% bonus on your qualifying deposit up to a maximum of £200" and "You will need to play through your deposit and bonus three times prior to making a withdrawal".
Bet365 said the banner ad indicated that there were conditions associated with the offer and the layout of the website was such that consumers could not take advantage of the offer without first seeing the terms and conditions, which made clear the financial commitment consumers must make to receive the bonus and the requirement to play the deposit and bonus through three times before funds could be withdrawn. They said they had, taking into account the limitations of space in the banner ad, taken measures to ensure the terms and conditions of the promotion were communicated to consumers in compliance with the Code. The ad included as much information as was practicable and directed consumers to an easily accessible alternative source, where all of the significant conditions of the promotion were prominently stated. They therefore believed the ad was not misleading.
1. & 2.Upheld
The ASA noted the banner ad made clear that terms and conditions applied to the offer. We understood that in order to receive the £200 of free bets referred to in the ad new customers were required to deposit £200 of their own money. We also understood that the terms and conditions required new customers to bet their initial deposit and matching free bet amounts on three separate occasions before they could then withdraw any cash winnings that had been awarded to their account during this process. Furthermore, we noted all of those bets needed to be made within 90 days or any winnings that were in the account would be forfeited.
We considered that the terms and conditions attached to the advertised "FREE BETS" were significant and were likely to affect a consumer's decision to sign up to bet365. We noted the terms and conditions could be located once consumers visited the bet365 website, but that consumers who clicked on the banner ad would not immediately see details of the significant conditions; they were instead a further click away from the landing page. We considered that, in order to be sufficiently prominent, significant conditions likely to affect a consumer's decision to participate in the promotion should have been displayed in the banner ad or no further than one click away from the ad itself. Because the significant conditions of the offer were not displayed with sufficient prominence, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification), 3.23 3.23 Marketing communications must make clear the extent of the commitment the consumer must make to take advantage of a "free" offer. (Free) and 8.18 8.18 Marketing communications that include a promotion and are significantly limited by time or space must include as much information about significant conditions as practicable and must direct consumers clearly to an easily accessible alternative source where all the significant conditions of the promotion are prominently stated. Participants should be able to retain those conditions or easily access them throughout the promotion. (Significant conditions for promotions).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told bet365 to ensure significant conditions were no more than one click away from banner ads in the future.