Is there a time-limit on prize claims?

Last autumn the entertainment retailer Zavvi ran an online prize draw to win a trip to Disneyland Paris. It was a great prize and to enter all you had to do was make a purchase on the Zavvi website, pay with Mastercard and enter your email address. The promotion ran from mid-September until the end of October.

The full terms and conditions, which were accessible via a link from the page highlighting the promotion, made it clear that the winner, who would be drawn at random, would be notified by email and would have 24 hours to accept their prize. To emphasise the point, the Ts&Cs stated, “If a winner does not contact us within this time period, we reserve the right to choose another winner at random from all other eligible entries.”

The closing date passed, a winner was duly drawn and an email was sent informing the lucky person that they would soon be heading off to Disneyland. However, 24hours went by, the prize draw promoter heard nothing, so another winner was drawn and someone else was given the good news that they would soon be on their way to Paris.

Well, that’s a shame, you might think, but so it goes – except the original prize-winner, understandably miffed that they had missed out on the prize, complained to the ASA that the promotion had breached the CAP Code.

What the CAP Code says is that promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment and must communicate all significant conditions or information, where the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. Surely Zavvi had done that? But no, the complaint was upheld.

The ASA found that Zavvi had not specified in the terms and conditions exactly when the winner would be notified, and without that information entrants did not know when they should check their email for a notification. It also considered that the information about accepting the prize within 24 hours had not been prominent enough.

I would add to this that Zavvi also made the mistake of making the winner response time-frame far too short. No doubt Zavvi wanted to complete the administration and conclude the promotion, but the prize wasn’t perishable or time-sensitive. It wasn’t a cheese selection box or tickets to a concert that was taking place in three days’ time, so Zaavi could easily have allowed a week, two weeks, whatever, for the winner to claim their prize.

In my view, 24 hours wasn’t really reasonable but it certainly wasn’t necessary. If a prize is perishable or time-sensitive, at Prizeology we always write that information into the terms and conditions – entrants need to know and understand this, because it affects prize claims.

Somewhat ironically, Zavvi did say in the Ts&Cs, “We may, at our sole discretion, call the winner and send them reminder emails during or following this time period in order to get a response to the notification email.” They didn’t say they would definitely do this, but having gone to the trouble of mentioning they might, I don’t see why they didn’t bother to follow through. After all, it doesn’t take long to send a reminder email and it could have saved Zavvi some trouble and some reputational damage.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist.

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