Property raffle breaks house rules

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I’ve written about property raffles before and they still seem very popular. I guess for promoters it’s one way of flipping bricks and mortar into a fat profit just by selling some tickets, and for punters, whether they would live in it, rent it out or sell it on, the opportunity to win some real estate is always attractive. However, when it comes to keeping your promotional house in order, it seems as if property raffle promoters can all too often fail to get over the threshold, as a recent ASA ruling illustrates perfectly.

The case concerned a website called Win Your Dream Home, which was offering a ‘luxury property’ in central Scotland, complete with seven bedrooms, a sauna and a swimming pool, as a prize. Entrants could buy unlimited numbers of tickets, which were £5 each or, as the site helpfully pointed out, and just in case you couldn’t do the maths, £15 for three.

Two people who had entered the draw and hadn’t won the luxury property, complete with original features and set in an acre of private gardens, contacted the ASA and challenged whether the competition breached the CAP Code on three points.

They complained that: the promoter didn’t make it sufficiently clear that a substitute cash prize would be awarded if an insufficient number of tickets were sold; the advertised prize of a house valued at £625,000 was withheld and the alternative cash prizes were not of equivalent value; and the subsequent prize draw for the cash prizes was not administered fairly.

The ASA investigated and found that the home page did not state prominently that a cash prize would be awarded if too few tickets were sold. This information was present in the terms and conditions, but you had to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on a link to find it. The ASA was concerned that people could easily have submitted entries without having read the inaccessible terms and conditions, so that was a breach of the CAP Code.

When you found them, what the Ts&Cs actually said was that if the number of tickets purchased wasn’t equal to the maximum number of tickets available, the proceeds of the ticket sales would either be deemed sufficient to award the house as a prize or the remaining funds would be awarded as a cash prize after the deduction of any expenses and marketing fees.

The ASA decided that the alternative cash prize was therefore likely to be lower than the value of the property, so, because promoters must award prizes as described or offer reasonable equivalents, this was another breach of the CAP Code.

In fact, as far as the ASA could ascertain, no one won the house, because the promoter sold insufficient tickets. Neither did it have any evidence that a reasonable equivalent prize had been awarded either, so on that basis it ruled that this was yet another – and in my view, very serious – breach of the CAP Code. In short, this was not a promotion that brought the house down.

One final point: this was another case which made my blood boil, because the company that was being challenged didn’t respond to the ASA’s enquiries. That in itself is a breach of the CAP Code, but to my mind it damages the reputation of the promotions industry as a whole, because brings to mind – and I may be stretching an analogy here – cowboy builders which here at Prizeology we most definitely aren’t!

By the way, if you think you’ve grasped how not to do it and fancy turning your hand to property raffles, the domain ‘www.winyourdreamhome.co.uk’ seems to be for sale at the moment…

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist. She once won a hamper in a raffle.

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