Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A web page on the France Today website, www.francetoday.com, seen in May 2019, was headed "Win a Balloon Flight for Two Worth €1,000". Further text stated "We've teamed up with Pilatre de Rozier Organisation on the 30th anniversary of the Grand Est Mondial Air Ballons international rally to offer a lucky reader the chance to win a balloon flight for two, VIP parking for one car and two passes to the event's BallonVille Partenaire village...Winners will be treated to a balloon flight for two, VIP parking for one car close to the take-off zone and access to the BallonVille Partenaire village - with its exhibition stalls, Aeromusee and range of activities - worth €1,000". Terms and conditions at the bottom of the page stated "Employees (and their relatives) of France Media Group are not eligible to enter. The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The competition closes on 16th May, 2019. Prize to be redeemed between July 26 and August 4, 2019. Subject to availability. Once contacted, winners have one week to claim their prize. No cash alternative given. In the event that a prize cannot be supplied, no liability will attach to France Media Group".
The complainant, who won the prize and travelled to the site at their own expense, but who was then told the balloon ride had been cancelled due to bad weather, challenged whether the:
- promotion had been administered fairly; and
2. terms of the promotion had been made sufficiently clear.
1. France Media Ltd said that the complainant had been offered a balloon flight the next day but had declined. They said they had been in contact with the organisers of the prize who had proposed an alternative prize. They had offered the complainant a balloon flight for two people during the following year’s ballooning festival. If it was cancelled for any reason, the complainant and their plus one would be offered another flight the same evening or following morning. If they again couldn’t take off due to the weather, they could try again for a date during the next year’s festival.
2. France Media said that the potential to be cancelled due to weather reasons was obviously a limitation of balloon rides. They said that they would review their competition texts in future where there was potential for events to be cancelled.
The CAP Code stated that promoters were responsible for all aspects and stages of their promotions. It also stated that promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants, and avoid causing unnecessary disappointment. Promoters were required to award prizes as described in their marketing communications or reasonable equivalents. While the terms and conditions in the ad stated “In the event that a prize cannot be supplied, no liability will attach to France Media Group”, the Code made clear that phrases such as “subject to availability” did not relieve promoters of their obligation to do everything reasonable to avoid disappointing participants.
The complainant had travelled to France to take up their prize, paying for travel and accommodation. However, on the day the flight was scheduled, the complainant was informed that it had been cancelled due to the weather conditions. We understood that the complainant had been offered an additional day of access to the festival, however, they had declined as they were only interested in the balloon ride. In any case, we understood that few other attractions had been open at the time. France Media had subsequently offered the complainant a balloon ride on a date of their choice at the following year’s festival. We noted that that was an equivalent prize in that it was the same as the original prize. However, we considered that the significant time and expenses incurred by the complainant to attempt to take up the original prize, only to have it cancelled, should have been taken into account when offering an alternative. Therefore, we did not consider that France Media had offered or awarded a reasonable equivalent, or taken sufficient steps to avoid unnecessary disappointment. We concluded that the promotion breached the Code.
On that point, the promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 8.1, 8.2, 8.9 and 8.15.1 (Promotional marketing).
We noted that hot air balloon flights required specific weather conditions, and as a result there was always a reasonable likelihood that they could be cancelled at short notice. While we considered that many consumers were likely to have some awareness of this possibility, they might not realise quite how common an occurrence it was. Furthermore, the promotion was aimed at UK-based consumers and the winner would need to travel to France at their own expense to claim the prize. For those reasons, we considered that the fact that the ride could be cancelled at the last minute due to the weather was significant information that was likely to have an effect on a consumer’s decision to participate in the promotion. It therefore should have been communicated clearly within the ad. As the ad did not include any information of this nature, we concluded that it was misleading and breached the Code.
On that point, the promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 8.17 (Promotional marketing).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told France Media Ltd to ensure that winners were awarded the advertised prize or a reasonable equivalent, and to avoid causing unnecessary disappointment. We also told them to ensure significant information in relation to promotions, such as the possibility that the prize could be cancelled at short notice due to the weather, was made clear to consumers.