A series of posts on Real Hot Property’s Facebook page, between September and November 2016, advertised a competition giveaway for a house worth up to £150,000. The posts featured the text “#HouseGiveaway” or stated “win a House of your own choice with Real Hot Property worth upto[sic] £150,000. FREE sign up available. Three different levels of membership…”.
Two complainants, who understood that the conditions of entry and the closing date for entry were amended during the promotion, challenged whether it had been conducted fairly.
Real Hot Property Ltd did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.
The ASA was concerned Real Hot Property’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The CAP Code required that promoters must only exceptionally supplement or amend the conditions of entry of prize promotions 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.
The ASA understood from the complainants that the promotion’s rules originally required that to enter the prize draw participants must pay to become a member of Red Hot Property’s website: different levels of membership provided different numbers of “free” entries to the prize draw. The complainants understood that the rules were then changed to allow consumers to receive one free entry to the prize draw by becoming a “Standard” member of the website, at no cost. The complainants understood a further entry route was then introduced allowing consumers who booked a holiday through the advertiser to receive 50 free entries to the prize draw.
The competition terms and conditions, as shown on Real Hot Property’s website on 20 October and 28 December 2016, stated “To enter: You must be a registered subscriber to our members’ area on our website, with all your details completed”, but did not include further information about the costs of registering as a subscriber or the number of prize draw entries available to participants through the various membership levels. We further noted that the terms and conditions did not provide for any entry routes other than via membership of the website, whereas Facebook posts by the advertiser on dates in late September and throughout October and November stated that consumers could obtain 50 free entries to the prize draw by booking a hotel or holiday through Real Hot Property. We therefore noted that the conditions of entry to the promotion had been supplemented and/or amended. We considered that the supplemental routes of entry highlighted to us by the complainants, which involved a free mechanism by which to obtain a prize draw entry and a mechanism which did not appear to require participants to register as a subscriber to Real Hot Property’s website, were likely to have influenced consumers against buying or participating under the original entry route of purchasing membership of Real Hot Property’s website. We concluded the promotion therefore breached the Code in that regard.
The CAP Code also required that closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter made it necessary and either that not to change the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms, or those who sought to participate within the original terms would not be disadvantaged by the change.
We noted that in October 2016 the closing date stated in the promotion terms and conditions on Real Hot Property’s website was 28 November 2016, but that in December 2016 the closing date had been changed to 28 April 2017. We had not been provided with an explanation as to why the closing date was changed and considered that those who sought to participate within the original terms had been disadvantaged, because it provided time for additional participants to enter the draw, and therefore the odds of winning for participants who had entered before the original closing date had decreased. We concluded the promotion therefore also breached the Code in that regard.
Notwithstanding the issues raised by the complainants, we also noted that none of the Facebook posts which referenced the promotion via the “HouseGiveaway” hashtag stated its closing date, that many did not include clear information about how to enter (including information about the free entry route), and those that did include information about how to enter the promotion included very limited information. None of the posts included a link to the full terms and conditions. Additionally, we noted that the terms and conditions stated that “Unless otherwise stated in the Competition Terms, only one Entry per person is permitted” but did not include any reference to the advertised entry routes which provided participants with more than one entry. We considered that a number of significant conditions had therefore been omitted from marketing communications and other material referring to the promotion, and concluded that the promotion had also breached the Code in those regards.
The promotion 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.
All marketing communications or other material referring to promotions must communicate all applicable significant conditions or information where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Significant conditions or information may, depending on the circumstances, include:
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 8.17.2 8.17.2 Free-entry route explanation
Any free-entry route should be explained clearly and prominently 8.17.4 8.17.4 Closing date
8.17.4.a 8.17.4.a A prominent closing date, if applicable, for purchases and submissions of entries or claims. Closing dates are not always necessary, for example: comparisons that refer to a special offer (whether the promoter's previous offer or a competitor's offer) if the offer is and is stated to be "subject to availability"; promotions limited only by the availability of promotional packs (gifts with a purchase, extra-volume packs and reduced-price packs) and loyalty schemes run on an open-ended basis and 8.17.4.e 8.17.4.e Closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter make it necessary and either not to change the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms, or those who sought to participate within the original terms will not be disadvantaged by the change. (Significant conditions for promotions) and 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. (Prize promotions).
The promotion must not appear in the same form again. We told Real Hot Property Ltd to ensure that they did not supplement or amend promotion rules if they contained anything that could reasonably have influenced consumers against participating. We also told them to ensure closing dates of promotions were not extended unless unavoidable circumstances beyond their control made it necessary, and to ensure that their future promotions included relevant applicable significant conditions where their omission was likely to mislead. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.