A headline banner on a betting website www.betway.com stated "Sign up now for a £50 risk-free bet". The ad also contained a link with the text "Register now". Clicking on the link connected to a registration form which included a tick box next to the text "I am of legal age to gamble and I accept the terms and conditions". Clicking on the "terms and conditions" link connected to further information about the offer.
The complainant challenged whether the "risk free bet" claim was misleading because they understood that customers would not always get their money back.
Betway.com Ltd (Betway) stated the "risk-free" offer was made with clear links/references to the associated terms and conditions and as such was not capable of misunderstanding or misinterpretation. They said it was clear that the complainant in this instance had understood the offer and that they had not been misled.
They stated that the "risk-free" element of the offer related to the first deposit and to nothing else and that the terms and conditions provided to consumers provided clear and unambiguous information relating to the offer. They said the conditions attached to the refund were set out fully in the terms and conditions and the statement that "refund[s] will be paid as bonus funds" could not reasonably be construed to mean anything else. They said once deposited, the amount was refunded as a bonus and that the player was therefore fully in control of whether or not s/he got refunded in the total deposit equivalent. They believed this was therefore "risk-free" and that once the full bonus equivalent of the original deposit had been refunded the player had been able to wager £50 and then received back £50 worth of bonus play. They said the conditions that all welcome bonuses needed to be wagered five times before any funds could be withdrawn did not relate directly to the "risk-free bet" offer and was exercised and completed once the customer had (a) deposited, (b) played, and (c) been refunded in the equivalent of bonus play.
The ASA noted the ad invited consumers to sign up for a "£50 risk-free bet" and considered that some consumers may understand that the offer carried conditions, but without qualification most consumers and visitors to the Betway website would understand from the ad, that upon sign-up they could bet with £50 of without loss. However, the terms and conditions demonstrated that customers were actually required to deposit and bet with their own money and that the "free bet" was in fact a refund which was only made to qualifying customers. Customers were refunded the amount of their deposit (up to a maximum of £50) but that this money was awarded as bonus funds and therefore could not be withdrawn as cash. That bonus amount also needed to be wagered five times in the Sportsbook or Casino parts of the website in order for any winnings then to be withdrawn as cash, meaning that players who were refunded the £50 sum referred to in the ad needed to wager at least £250 before any cash withdrawal could be made. Furthermore, refunds were only made to registrants if their account balance reached zero at some point within the seven days from registration. We considered that because consumers expected a "risk free" bet to be one where they incurred no loss, the deposit requirments, the nature of bonus fund payments and the requirements to wager five times were inextricably linked and that these conditions did not meet the consumer expectation of a "risk free bet".
Where sales promotion ads are severely limited by time and space, such as an internet banner ad, the ASA had previously permitted significant terms and conditions to be provided no more than one click-away from the ad, providing that ad also clearly directed consumers to the source of those conditions. The terms and conditions in this case were stated on the website but there was no direct link between the banner and those conditions and no statement on the ad to indicate that significant conditions applied and were available to be read. Furthermore, those significant conditions were not one-click away from the ad because clicking on the banner linked to a "registration page" which required another 'click' to connect to terms and conditions. In any event, we considered that the conditions of the offer contradicted rather than qualified the claim "Sign up now for a £50 risk-free bet" and therefore 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. (Qualifications) and 8.18 (Sales promotions).
The ad should not appear again in its current form. We told Betway to clearly and accurately qualify "risk-free bet" offers in the future.