Do competitions need closing dates?

All good things must come to an end – even Love Island – but not, apparently, the competitions promoted on the I Can Have It website. I say this, because the ASA received a complaint from someone who had entered, and indeed paid to enter, a number of competitions on the site back in 2016, but who was somewhat disconcerted to find that the competitions were still running and being promoted in November 2017.

I can see why the complainant entered, though, as the prizes were pretty good – a Microsoft Surface Pro, a Canon Digital SLR camera, a Citroen C4 or a Ford Ecosport. However, when the ASA investigated in June this year, it learned that although the competition to win the Microsoft Surface Pro had now closed and a winner had been declared, insufficient tickets had been sold in the other three competitions referred to and they were ongoing.

In fact, tickets are the key to this story, because when questioned by the ASA, I Can Have It explained that they couldn’t give fixed end dates for the competitions because they were driven by ticket sales. The company agreed that the website’s FAQs talked about a four- to six-month competition period, but said that this was only an indication and not a guarantee, because a competition would only close when all the tickets had been sold.

I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out, but the business model is that the income from ticket sales pays for the prizes and, presumably, a profit for I Can Have It is factored in, too. Actually, the section of the I Can Have It website headed How It Works claims that the competitions are structured in this way “with the sole aim of closing them faster”, although I would venture that the complainant and the ASA identified that it doesn’t appear to work like that in all cases.

The ASA made its deliberations and commented that there was a lack of clarity about the prospective length of the competition and no information about the number of tickets that had been sold, so consumers were unable to make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase a ticket. In upholding the complaint, the ASA instructed I Can Have It to make it clear how the competitions worked and provide information about the potential length of each competition.

So, if a competition is open-ended, entrants must be able to assess their chances of winning, which they can’t do without understanding what determines the closing date. However, my advice would be that there’s a flaw in this business model, because the lack of a closing date tends to deter entrants, which means that ticket sales might never reach the level at which the promoter can close the competition.

I mean, I may not be great at delayed gratification, but surely no one in their right minds is interested in the prospect of winning, say, a car, which they might not receive until their faculties have failed and they’re no longer able to drive? That’s not so much I Can Have It as I Can Have It But Not Only When I’m Too Old To Enjoy It.

BTW, congrats to Jack and Dani and, as a romantic at heart, obviously I hope they stay together. At least the £50k means they won big, even if the person who complained to the ASA about the I Can Have It competitions hasn’t – yet.

At Prizeology we know a thing or two about structuring and running competitions. In fact, we offer a full range of competition agency services. Why not drop us a line? We’d be chuffed to bits to hear from you.

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

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