Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Upheld.
A prize promotion, on an online magazine, run by Red Bull stated "WIN A VIP TRIP TO WATCH THE BELGIUM GRAND PRIX ... To celebrate the up-coming Belgium Grand Prix (31 August - 2 September), we're giving one winner a pair of tickets to watch the action as well as a flights [sic] and accommodation at the luxurious four-star Beaumont hotel for two nights."
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the competition had been administered properly; and
2. the description of the prize as "VIP" was misleading.
The complainant, who had won the prize, objected to a variety of issues relating to the administration of the promotion that included the short notice that was given between being informed that he had won and the event itself, that he had to share a bed with his brother despite requesting two single beds, the general organisation in which the airport, hotel and event spanned three different countries, that their suitcases had to be taken to the event and that they had to leave the event early due to the timing of the return flight.
1. & 2. In response to these issues Red Bull Company Ltd (Red Bull) said the promotion was administered strictly in accordance with the terms and conditions, which all entrants were made aware of and agreed to prior to entry. They said Formula 1 (F1) was one of the most exclusive sports in the world and the Belgium Grand Prix was one of the most prestigious races on the F1 calendar. They said the ad did not claim that event tickets were VIP and that the VIP headline referred to the entire package that entrants could win, which included tickets to the event, flights and accommodation at a 4-star hotel. They said the event tickets that were in the main "Silver" grandstand cost over £300 each and were not standard tickets. The flight was short haul and therefore only one class of travel was available and the details of the hotel were stated on the front page of the promotion.
They said the complainant was informed of the flight departure details on 28 August 2012, in accordance with the terms and conditions and further details were e-mailed to him on 30 August. They apologised that, despite specifying to the hotel two single beds on behalf of the complainant and his companion, they had failed to provide this. The complainant flew into Cologne Airport in Germany and was then required to travel to the hotel which was located in the Netherlands and, after travelling to the event in Belgium, returned home from Brussels airport. They said he was informed prior to the event that, other than the flights, he and his companion would have to organise their own travel. They also said, while it was not ideal that the timing of the return flight meant that they had to leave the event early, once they became aware of this, they had offered to cover the complainant's expenses.
They said the trip was only for two days and that they could not have foreseen that the luggage would be problematic. They also understood that the complainant was informed by e-mail by the promoter that the accommodation was at a spa hotel and was disappointed when they discovered this was not the case. They said the name of the hotel was stated on the promotion.
The ad stated "we're giving one winner a pair of tickets to watch the action as well as a flights and accommodation at the luxurious four-star Beaumont hotel for two nights ..." and directed readers to the terms and conditions that stated that the winner would be announced by 2pm on 28 August 2012, and would win two tickets to the Belgium Grand Prix, including flights and accommodation. However, it did not make clear that, while the event was in Brussels, the winner would have to fly into Cologne Airport in Germany and then travel to the hotel in the Netherlands, nor did it make clear that, other than the flights, winners would have to organise their own travel. The ASA considered that information relating to the different locations of the event, airport and hotel, and that travel to and from them was not included, was significant information likely to influence consumers' understanding of the promotion and should therefore have been stated clearly in the promotional material. The complainant had to leave the event early to make the return flight and we understood that no arrangements were made for him or his companion to store their luggage at the event.
We considered that the promotion had excluded significant conditions and that the promoter had not made available adequate resources to administer the promotion equitably or efficiently. We concluded that the promotion was misleading and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
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.
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 (Significant conditions for sales promotions).
The complainant also challenged whether the description of the prize as "VIP" was misleading, because the hotel did not have a spa, the flights were with a budget airline, and he was issued with grandstand tickets, rather than VIP tickets. While there was no reference to the hotel as a spa hotel, in either the promotional material or the terms and conditions, the complainant was sent an e-mail on 28 August 2012 by the promoter indicating that he had been selected as the winner and that the prize consisted of stay in a 4-star luxurious spa hotel. We considered that it was therefore reasonable for him to expect to stay in a spa hotel.
We considered that the headline claim "WIN A VIP TRIP TO WATCH THE BELGIUM GRAND PRIX ..." implied that what was "VIP" was the entire trip that included the travel, hotel and event tickets. We also considered that the term "VIP", in the context of the ad, was likely to be understood by readers as exclusive, and specifically non-standard, and that they would not expect, unless otherwise stated in the promotion, for the flights to be with a budget airline. We also considered that "VIP" had a specific meaning in the ticketing industry and that, given that the Grand Prix issued tickets that included admission to a VIP area, readers would expect the winning tickets to include this. While we noted the promoter's comments that the event was the most prestigious race on the F1 calendar, we did not consider that this was sufficient grounds to describe the trip as "VIP". We concluded that the description of the promotion as a "VIP" trip was misleading and breached the Code.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 8.2 8.2 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. (Sales promotions).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Red Bull Company Ltd to include significant conditions in future promotions, and ensure that they had adequate resources available to administer them. We also told them not to describe a promotion as "VIP" if it was likely to mislead participants as to the nature of all or part of the prize.