A promotion to win a hotel stay was posted on 13 April 2018 on the Facebook page for the digital media agency Vindicta Digital. Text in the post stated “COMPETITION TIME … WIN A STAY FOR TWO @ THE SLIEVE DONARD HOTEL, NEWCASTLE CO. DOWN”. The post also stated “WINNER CRITERIA / HOW TO WIN:” and listed the following: “LIKE THE VINDICTA DIGITAL PAGE”, “TAG 3 + FRIENDS IN THE COMMENTS”, “SHARE THIS POST TO YOUR PAGE”, WINNERS WILL BE PICKED - 13TH MAY”.
Additional text was posted by Vindicta Digital on 24 April 2018 to the comments sections of the original Facebook post. Text stated “We’ve decided to give everyone another way of increasing their chances of winning this competition … LEAVE us a 5 STAR REVIEW on Facebook and DOUBLE YOUR ENTRY…”. A link to the review page was also included.
The complainant, who understood that another entry route was added after the commencement of the promotion, which encouraged participants to leave reviews that potentially were not genuine, challenged whether the promotion was conducted fairly.
Vindicta Digital acknowledged receipt of the complaint but did not provide a substantive response.
The ASA was concerned by Vindicta Digital’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 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 provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The CAP Code stated that 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.
We understood from the information available that the original route of entry required participants to ‘like’ Vindicta Digital’s Facebook page, tag three or more Facebook friends in the comments section of the Facebook post featuring the promotion, and ‘share’ the post on their own Facebook timeline. Whilst the promotion was ongoing, Vindicta Digital included an additional route of entry which required participants to leave a five star review on their Facebook page.
We were concerned that because the promotion was open to all, the additional route of entry meant that participants, who might or might not have been actual customers of Vindicta Digital, were incentivised to leave five star reviews. The result was that those reviews might not necessarily reflect the genuine opinion of the people who provided them. We considered that it was unfair to expect participants to give such reviews as a condition of enhancing their chances of winning. We also considered that those favourable reviews submitted as additional entries were likely to mislead prospective customers.
In addition, we noted that, under the CAP Code, explanation about any free-entry routes constituted a significant condition to a promotion, the omission of which was likely to mislead. Notwithstanding the omission of that significant condition in the initial ads for the promotion, we considered that the addition of a second entry route whilst the promotion was underway, and therefore a change in the terms and conditions, disadvantaged entrants who sought to participate under the original terms of entry. This was because, it either required participants to provide a review that might not reflect their genuine opinion of Vindicta Digital’s services, or accept a lower chance of winning the prize.
For those reasons, we considered that Vindicta Digital had not conducted the promotion equitably, and that they had not dealt with participants fairly. We concluded that the promotion was in breach of the Code.
The promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions.
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 and 8.17.2 8.17.2 Free-entry route explanation
Any free-entry route should be explained clearly and prominently (Significant conditions for promotions).
We noted that the promotion had ended. We told Vindicta Digital that if they intended to run similar promotions in the future, they should ensure that they did not encourage participants to provide favourable reviews as a condition of enhancing their chances of winning. We also told them to ensure that in future similar promotions, they did not change terms and conditions part way through the promotion and disadvantage those who sought to participate under the original terms.