A paid-for Bing search ad and two paid-for Google search ads for EU Lotto Ltd t/a Lottoland, www.lottoland.co.uk, seen in May 2022:
a. The Bing ad stated, “Lottoland Irish Lottery – Only £2 Here” and “£209m US Powerball Lotto. £56m Megamillions 6for1. Contact us. Play here”.
b. The first Google ad stated, “Lottoland Irish Lottery – only £2 Here” and “Charity Combo for £2. Win-win charity Lotto + BRC Scratch 50% off. Support UK Charities Here”.
c. The second Google ad stated “Lottoland Lotto x5 – Just £1 – 5 chances to win £1 million” and “CAN Your Lotto Do That? Lottoland Can”.
IssueThe complainant, who understood the Lotto games provided an opportunity to bet on the outcome of a lottery rather than participate in the lottery itself, challenged whether the ads were misleading.
EU Lotto Ltd t/a Lottoland said they had previously agreed to make changes to their advertising to ensure ads made reference to bets and betting. However, due to problems with third-party ad templates and settings, the ads published did not contain the clarifications which they had agreed voluntarily.
In relation to ad (a), they said that due to a default setting, the relevant parts of the ad were inadvertently generated by a combination of random (and sometimes unrelated) words from various online sources which were automatically published. They explained that had also resulted in their additional clarifications for bet and betting not being published. They said the specific references to “£209M US Powerball Lotto” and “£56m Megamillions 6for1” had been taken from their own website and used to create an ad. They said Bing had confirmed that the setting had now been deactivated in the UK market.
Lottoland said that ad (b) was a Responsive Search Ad (RSA) and, in line with their previous assurance, they had made updates within their Google account to their ‘pinned terms’ in order for their ads to reference bet and betting. They said that should have allowed suitable ads to be generated. However, in rare instances the Google algorithm had not used their pinned terms because of a word count and space issue. They had since ensured that the pinned terms were included in a way which would avoid the word count and space issue in the future.
They explained that ad (c) was an expanded text ad and that the algorithm Google used for creating ads had omitted some of their key words. That ad had now been discontinued following the notification of the complaint.
They said that the Lotto x5, referred to in ad (c), was a product that was developed by Lottoland. The numbers were drawn by a Random Number Generator and therefore did not follow or correspond to any official lottery draw.
They considered that, irrespective of those explanations, all ads provided clear indications that the offer being advertised related to a service that was very clearly provided by Lottoland. They said Lottoland was referenced in all of the ads and that ‘Irish Lotto’ was a known, common shorthand for lottery betting products. They said the ads had not made any reference to the “Irish National Lottery” and therefore were not misleading. They said there had been no real risk of confusion or conflation and that customers would not reasonably consider that they were participating in the National Lottery.
The ASA noted the use of the term “Lotto” in all of the ads, as well as specific references to “Irish Lottery” and “US Powerball Lotto”. We considered that in that context and in the absence of any qualification, consumers would interpret the term ‘Lotto’ to mean a lottery and that Lottoland provided an opportunity to purchase tickets for and participate in official lottery draws. Consumers were likely to associate lotteries with contributing to charitable causes, and we considered that the claim “Support UK charities here” was likely to reinforce the impression that the service being offered was a lottery.
However, we understood that the ads related to a service whereby consumers could bet on the result of lottery draws. With reference to ads (a) and (b) consumers chose numbers in the same way as an official lottery draw and Lottoland matched the prize of the official lottery, but was not connected to the relevant lottery operator. Whilst ad (c) referred to a Random Number Generated lottery run by EU Lotto, consumers were still not participating in the lottery itself but betting on the outcome of the draw.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ads were likely to mislead.
The ads 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).
The ad must not appear in the form complained of. We told EU Lotto Ltd t/a Lottland to ensure that their ads did not mislead by omitting the fact that their service offered the chance to bet on the outcome of a lottery, and to ensure that references to betting were clear and included prominently in their ads.