Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A direct mailing for Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation seen in October 2017 stated on the envelope “Claim your prize Sweepstakes … You have been chosen for priority processing Final Step Required If you fail to respond, Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation cannot be responsible for loss of any prize money that you might have won in the random drawing … Don’t miss out!”. The enclosed letter was addressed to the recipient and stated “It would be unthinkable to pass up the chance to win monies that could bring you happiness and make future life easier … don’t risk losing the opportunity to win this fantastic cash prize, like others have done by ignoring the announcements and failing to respond. Return your Entry Documents today, and when the winner is announced, YOU could be blessed with a financial windfall … I urge you- take a moment right now to complete and return your Entry Documents, along with your optional contribution to support our work”. A further document within the envelope headed “Special Message from Fred SxxxD- Sweepstakes Spokesman” stated “Although you don’t have to send a gift to support our research programmes in order to enter and win this sweepstakes- it would be fitting that our supporters are the winners of the fantastic prizes on offer!”. Another document stated “£25 FAST CASH … Complete & Return this Prompt Response Entry Form promptly with your other entry materials in the envelope provided for a chance to win in the random drawing!”.
Brent and Harrow Trading Standards challenged whether the promotion:
1.claimed that consumers had won a prize when they had not;
2.exaggerated consumers’ chances of winning prizes; and
3. implied that consumers were luckier than they were.
Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation said the package named “Claim Your Prizes Sweepstakes” was mailed out to existing supporters only and that the ad complained about was the final notice for the campaign. They said the text used claims such as “eligible for entry”, “this is your opportunity to enter the sweepstakes” and “if you are chosen as our Grand Prize winner” which they considered did not categorically state that recipients were winners. They stated that they had used the same wording for a period of years since 2007 and had received no previous complaints.
Further they explained that the package contained phrases such as “winner guaranteed”, “your prize”, “claim your prize” in order to engage recipients into participating in the sweepstake and that it was intended to convey the message that all prizes were guaranteed to be awarded after the closure of the draw period. They stated that the programme had run biennially since 2001 and that they had awarded prizes at the end of each two-year draw period.
They said that participation in the prize draw was predicated on entry alone and did not require a contribution to be made to the charity. They believed that throughout the package it was made clear that a contribution was not a condition of entry and that most people would not be confused by the presentation of the wording in the ad. They thought that this was further emphasised by the phrase “Your chance to win is as good as anybody’s”, which they believed clearly underlined that the letter was offering an opportunity to enter and that all entrants had an equal chance of winning in the random draw.
They said letters were sent out to past participants and that the use of the recipient’s name was building on the already established relationship and that it did not imply or lead to the perception that the entrant was luckier than they were or exaggerated their chance of winning a prize. They also said that the terms and conditions of the “£25 Fast Cash” entry form made it clear that it was in relation to a prize draw and that it was not a gift.
Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation explained that the ad had been written in-house and that they were willing to work with the ASA to ensure that in the future the ad was compliant with the CAP Code.
1., 2. & 3. Upheld
The ASA noted that the ad consisted of a letter addressed personally to the recipient, other documents which contained information about the competition and the charity, the envelope it was delivered in and a return envelope. Each document contained multiple claims which were all phrased slightly differently which created an overall confusing and ambiguous impression which we considered meant that consumers could take contradictory meanings as they read through the ad.
The outside of the delivery envelope stated “Claim your prize Sweepstakes” and the letter began with “This is the FINAL NOTIFICATION that will be sent to you regarding your Claim Your Prize Sweepstakes Entry Documents. Don’t miss out!”. We considered that consumers would interpret the claims as meaning that they had won a prize in a sweepstake. We understood that the campaign was called “Claim Your Prizes Sweepstakes”. However, we considered that in the context of the ad it would be interpreted by consumers as meaning they had already won a prize that could now be claimed.
The outside of the envelope also stated “You have been chosen for priority processing”, “If you fail to respond, Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation cannot be responsible for loss of any prize money that you might have won in the random drawing” and the return envelope stated “ALL PRIZES Guaranteed to be awarded”. The letter also included the claims “It would be unthinkable to pass up the chance to win monies that could bring you happiness and make future life much easier” and “Return your Entry Documents today, and when the winner is announced, YOU could be blessed with a financial windfall”. Further, the letter was addressed to the individual recipient and referred to them by name multiple times throughout the body of the letter. We considered that the claims and the use of the recipient’s name would lead the recipient to believe that they were luckier than they were and exaggerated their chances of winning a prize.
The letter stated, “I make a small request, and I think you’ll understand why. Please send a gift … A contribution is not required for entry and it does not improve your chances of winning a prize- but you will be supporting vital diabetes research and continuing awareness and educational programmes”. The letter had a return slip at the bottom which had a check box accompanied by the text “Yes, enter me in the Sweepstakes! [in bold font] I am enclosing my best gift to Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation to fund medical research and ongoing education and awareness programmes …” and another check box with the text “No, I can’t give today but please enter me in the sweepstakes”. At the bottom of the slip bold text stated “No contribution required to enter or win a prize. A contribution will not increase your odds of winning a prize”. We further noted that the letter contained two separate statements from the “Sweepstakes Spokesman” which stated that a donation or gift to the charity was not required for entry in the competition. However, both were followed by claims which stated that they hoped that, or that it would be fitting, if someone who had donated won. Although the claims stated that a donation was not required to enter the competition or that it would enhance recipients’ odds of winning, we considered that in the context of the whole ad which was confusing and ambiguous, the statements would be interpreted by consumers to mean that by also giving a donation they had a better chance of winning a prize.
The envelope also contained a document in the style of a voucher which stated “£25 FAST CASH … Complete & Return this Prompt Response Entry Form promptly with your other entry materials in the envelope provided for a chance to win in the random drawing!”. We considered that consumers would understand that if they returned the voucher they would receive £25 cash, but that it was not clear if this was a gift, prize or equivalent benefit.
We welcomed Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation willingness to comply with the CAP Code and make changes to the ad. However, we concluded that the ad implied that consumers had already won a prize, that they were luckier than they were and exaggerated their chances of winning, and therefore was in breach of the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 8.19 8.19 Promoters must not claim that consumers have won a prize if they have not. The distinction between prizes and gifts, or equivalent benefits, must always be clear. Ordinarily, consumers may expect an item offered to a significant proportion of participants to be described as a ‘gift’, while an item offered to a small minority may be more likely to be described as a ‘prize’. If a promotion offers a gift to a significant proportion and a prize to a minority, special care is needed to avoid confusing the two: the promotion must, for example, state clearly that consumers “qualify” for the gift but have merely an opportunity to win the prize. If a promotion includes, in a list of prizes, a gift for which consumers have qualified, the promoter must distinguish clearly between the two. 8.20 8.20 Promoters must not exaggerate consumers' chances of winning prizes. They must not include a consumer who has been awarded a gift in a list of prize winners. and 8.21 8.21 Promoters must not claim or imply that consumers are luckier than they are. They must not use terms such as "finalist" or "final stage" in a way that implies that consumers have progressed, by chance or skill, to an advanced stage of a promotion if they have not. (Prize Promotions).
The ad must not appear again its current form. We told Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation to ensure that in the future their ads made clear that consumers were being offered the opportunity to enter into a sweepstake, and not imply that they had won a prize if they had not, or were luckier than they were and not to exaggerate their chances of winning a prize.