Why competitions need terms and conditions

Twitter messages can now be 280 characters long and that’s good news for promoters. If you want to know why, see this post. But if you still can’t fit abridged terms and conditions into a single tweet, use two tweets and mark them 1/2 and 2/2 to tell the Twitter community that you’re posting linked tweets.

This is a lesson As Nature Intended, an organic retailer with six shops in London, learned the hard way. Earlier this year it ran a Twitter promotion to win a hamper. People were asked to post a picture of their favourite breakfast product sold by the company, but in a complaint to the ASA one entrant challenged whether the competition had been fairly administered.

The complainant had entered a picture of a generic bowl of porridge, but didn’t win as there was no reference to one of the promoter’s products. In fact, this requirement wasn’t clear, because the tweet contained no abridged terms and conditions, nor did it link to full terms and conditions. In its defence, As Nature Intended said that due to space limitations it had found it impossible to add terms and conditions, but this excuse didn’t carry much weight with the ASA and the complaint was upheld.

The situation was compounded, because the small chain only has branches in the London area. As Nature Intended told the ASA it had ‘assumed’ entrants would be based in London or able to reach one of their shops. However, it’s unfair to expect someone living in Carlisle to visit a shop in the capital. Of course, this issue could have been easily avoided by terms and conditions that restricted entrants’ geographical location. You just can’t make assumptions that people will somehow understand what you mean – you have to spell it out.

But the situation got worse. The complainant had made a real effort to participate in the competition, so As Nature Intended decided to reward this person with a complimentary prize. Unfortunately, they didn’t explain properly that this wasn’t the main prize, so the complainant was understandably disappointed when they received quite a lot of porridge oats rather than a hamper.

In fact, the main prize went unclaimed and was eventually given to charity, but once more, where competitions are concerned it’s crucial to be crystal clear in all your communications and to legislate for what will happen if prizes should go unclaimed in – you guessed it – your terms and conditions.

Did As Nature Intended have good intentions? Yes, reading the ASA’s ruling I’m sure it did. Did it make some serious errors? Yes, it did. Could this scenario have been avoided if As Nature Intended had thought its promotion through carefully or, better still, sought professional advice on how to comply with the CAP Code? I’m bound to say yes, aren’t I, but that doesn’t make it any the less true!

So, this ruling from the ASA is a useful cautionary tale and, in summary, reminds us:

  • Never, under any circumstances, omit abridged terms and conditions or in fact any terms
  • Make any geographical entry restrictions clear
  • Don’t assume participants will make the same assumptions as you
  • Always award all your prizes

And a final reminder – Prizeology can write robust terms and conditions that protect your promotion, your customers and your brand. We can also handle your winner management. Get in touch to find out more.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team.

© Prizeology and The Prizeologist Blog, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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