Of closing dates, voting and independent judges

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There was much to interest a prize promotions nerd like myself in a recent ruling by the ASA on a promotion run by the multinational beauty brand, Weleda. The case is an instructive one, because it shows that even if you act in good faith, and Weleda clearly did, if you don’t adhere to the CAP Code, you could find yourself in trouble.

The Global Garden promotion ran over several months last year and was a nice concept with a fantastic prize – a world tour to all the countries in which Weleda operates. Entrants from those 18 countries had to upload a profile of themselves, which were then put to an online public vote. The top six in each country became national finalists and the national winner went forward to the international competition where a global winner was selected.

The complainant’s first point was that the competition’s terms and conditions had been breached because the closing date had been changed. Weleda UK had indeed decided to reopen the competition for 24 hours after the original closing date, because it hadn’t been possible to vote during the final day due to a technical error in another country.

The CAP Code says a closing date can only be changed in in the event of “unavoidable circumstances”, but the ASA ruled that the circumstances Weleda found themselves in, regrettable though they may have been, were not unavoidable. To be honest, just assume you can’t change a closing date – it’s safer that way.

When the competition closed for the first time, the complainant was ranked in the top six places, but when the competition closed for the second time the complainant and another entrant who were previously in the top six had been bumped and were now in seventh and eighth place. You can see why the entrant might have been moved to complain.

So Weleda UK decided that it would be fairer to choose the national winner from the eight rather than six top entrants, which is what they did, but the selection panel was made up of the members of the Weleda UK team – and that’s significant. If the judgement you’re making is subjective, the CAP Code says an independent judge needs to be involved – if you don’t, you can’t guarantee your decision is fair.

The complainant’s second point was that the online voting did not comply with the competition’s terms and conditions, as they believed it was possible for people to submit more than one vote for each candidate. Weleda explained to the ASA what measures it had put in place to prevent individuals from submitting multiple votes and the ASA accepted the voting had been conducted properly and there were no grounds for complaint.

However, there was a sub-point – that Weleda employees had encouraged people to vote for one of the candidates on Facebook. There was evidence that this had happened via the personal Facebook accounts of people who described themselves as ‘Weleda wellbeing advisors’. Now Weleda asserted that these advisers weren’t employees, because they were self-employed, but the ASA felt that consumers would believe they were representing Weleda UK, so on that point it decided Weleda did not appear to have acted fairly and honourably.

Anyway, if you want further information there are a lot more details here. No? OK. Perhaps it’s just me who finds this stuff fascinating. In which case you might find it more interesting to catch up with the travels of the eventual winner, Australian blogger Lauren Doolan, and you can do that here. At the time of writing, she’s still on her world tour. Lucky her!

And just a reminder that Prizeology can advise on terms and conditions, including closing dates (we say don’t change them). We can design robust voting mechanisms and we can also provide independent judges. You know what to do if you’d like to avail yourself of any of those services. Yes, send an email to hello@prizeology.com or call us on 020 7856 0402. Thank you!

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a National Trading Standards Scams Team Scambassador. 

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