A Facebook competition for Headwater Holidays stated "Bootiful PHOTO COMPETITION. Win up for £500 of Cotswold Outdoor vouchers. Just post your best 'bootiful' photo on our Facebook page ... the rules are simple - the photo must contain a boot! ....Voting and Judging. The top 10 pictures voted for on Facebook will be shortlisted and judged by a panel of experts - voting closes at 11pm 8th September 2013 and the winners will be announced on Friday 13 September ... A runner up prize of £300 of Cotswold vouchers and a third place of £200 of Cotswold vouchers is also on offer!".
The complainant, who finished 10th in the vote, but was disqualified, challenged whether the competition had been administered fairly.
Headwater Holidays Ltd said the 'Bootiful' competition was run by a third-party agency that was engaged to check the competition entries on a daily basis to ensure the entries complied with the competition rules. They said that with regard to the rules relating to voting, the agency was required to check voting patterns and look out for any sudden influxes of votes, which were indicative of people receiving votes using vote exchange groups. The agency would then notify them if they believed an entrant had not met the competition conditions or who had tried to manipulate voting.
They said that the complainant had posted her photograph on the final day of the competition and collected 133 votes within 11 hours and that this compared against other entrants who generally had only received approximately 30 votes over a much longer period of time. They provided a spreadsheet showing the period of time over which the votes were received for the complainant. They said that when they were notified of the unusual voting pattern, they examined the complainant's Facebook page, which indicated that they were a regular competition entrant and a member of some 'voting' groups and active in competition circles. They said they therefore had reasonable grounds to believe that the complainant had taken part in a vote exchange to try and manipulate the voting for their benefit.
The ASA noted one of the rules of the competition stated "Headwater reserves the right to disqualify any entrants if it has reasonable grounds to believe that voting has been manipulated or incentivised". We also noted the complainant had received a large number of votes within a short space of time and also noted they were a keen and regular comper, with friends and acquaintances who were also regular compers. We understood the complainant had directly contacted a number of those individuals and had asked them to vote for their entry alongside their other friends and family. Although we understood the difference in voting patterns between the complainant and other entrants may have attracted the advertiser's attention and warranted further examination, we noted evidence was not supplied to demonstrate that those votes had been received as a result of a vote exchange or via membership of a voting group (incentivised or otherwise). We considered the submitted evidence did not show that the votes received had been "manipulated" or "incentivised" and that the decision to disqualify the complainant did not comply with the terms and conditions of the competition. We therefore concluded that the competition had not been administered fairly.
The competition breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.
Promoters must ensure that their promotions are conducted under proper supervision and make adequate resources available to administer them. Promoters, agencies and intermediaries should not give consumers justifiable grounds for complaint.
How to participate
How to participate, including significant conditions and costs, and other major factors reasonably likely to influence consumers' decision or understanding about the promotion 8.23 8.23 Promoters must avoid rules that are too complex to be understood and they must only exceptionally supplement or amend conditions of entry with extra rules. In such circumstances, promoters must tell participants how to obtain the supplemental or amended rules and they must contain nothing that could reasonably have influenced consumers against buying or participating. and 8.28.6 8.28.6 in a competition, the criteria and mechanism for judging entries (for example, the most apt and original tiebreaker) (Sales promotions).
We told Headwater Holidays Ltd to make clear their terms of entry and to ensure future competitions were administered fairly.