ASA news: Property raffles. You could say this is a minor obsession of mine and it’s certainly a topic I’ve covered many times in the last few years. Property raffles invite you to buy a ticket for, say, £5, and enter a draw to win an apartment or a house.
Superficially property raffles look very attractive. I guess they appeal to those who are struggling to get a toehold on the property ladder, but then the prize is almost invariably described as ‘a home of your dreams’ and who wouldn’t want to win one of those?
However, there are some fundamental structural flaws in the way most property raffles are run, largely because promoters are running property raffles in order to turn a profit. As a result, and because insufficient tickets are often sold, the prizes are rarely awarded as advertised.
Instead, a cash prize is usually substituted, but although it may be a nice lump sum that the winner is chuffed to be given, various deductions will have been made and it won’t be equivalent to the theoretical value of the original property prize.
The complaints pile up
Unsurprisingly, complaints about property raffles have been building and building. In fact, the ASA says that since 2015 it’s received 90 such complaints. That’s a lot of complaints. Indeed, I’m moved to say that if each of those complaints were a country cottage the ASA would now own a small, picturesque village.
The ASA has recently changed its approach to handling complaints about property raffles, though, and has announced that from now on it will refer these cases to NTSELAT. What, you may ask, is NTSELAT, apart, that is, from an acronym that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue?
Well, NTSELAT is the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team and it enforces the Estate Agents Act 1979 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019, working closely with local authorities, which have local enforcement responsibilities, to protect consumers and businesses.
Regulating property raffles
Essentially, NTSELAT is responsible for the regulation of letting agency work in England and estate agency work in the UK. It’s easy to see the property connection, of course, but the connection with raffles is less obvious.
However, running a property raffle could be covered legally by the Estate Agency Act 1979, because the promoter could be deemed to be doing estate agency work. This would mean a promoter has to follow certain rules, including declaring any personal interests, keeping appropriate records, having membership of an approved body that could provide redress to consumers in the event of a dispute and abiding by anti-money laundering regulations. That’s interesting, isn’t it?
So, what’s going to happen now is that the ASA will refer complaints about property raffles to NTSELAT, which will, in turn, refer complaints onwards to the body which is best equipped to deal with them.
For example, if the terms and conditions under which you could win a property are not explained clearly enough this could be a misleading action under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and a case like that would be referred to Trading Standards. Or if there was concern that a property raffle might be an illegal lottery, the complaint would be referred to the Gambling Commission.
Taking effective action
As avid readers will be aware, ASA rulings were previously published after the property raffles in question had closed. If a complaint was upheld the promoter was usually told not to repeat the error, but if, for example, the structure of a property raffle changed mid-way through and a closing date moved, that was probably of little consolation to entrants who had experienced unfairness.
Trading Standards may be able to move more quickly, before a property raffle actually concludes, and promoters may be subject to the sanctions which Trading Standards can impose. All in all, I believe this is excellent news for the public profile of the prize promotions sector and, most important of all, for consumers.
This new way of handling complaints about property raffles is already in operation, so if you have a complaint about the way a property raffle is being promoted, you should make a complaint via the ASA, which will pass it on to NTSELAT or, if you have paid for a ticket but have no chance of winning the property, report this to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 113303454 040506.
To be honest, Prizeology doesn’t run property raffles, but for all other types of prize promotion, do get in touch by emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us on 020 7856 0402.
Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a National Trading Standards Scams Team Scambassador.