We’ve spoken an awful lot on Compaholics about different competitions, prize draws and lotteries that you can enter. Each comes with a separate set of rules, and even though many are pretty standard there are some strict policies that these companies need to follow.
As a consumer, it’s always best to know exactly what sort of rules are in place and what regulations the companies need to abide by. This will allow you to spot when things perhaps aren’t correct and also what sort of leniency the law states for each competition.
Throughout this article we’re going to be looking at some of the laws that are in place and also what to do should you notice something that is not quite right.
Where to Find this Information
Whilst we’re going to break down the majority of the laws that have been set out, if you are looking for the full breakdown then you can get them from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website.
It’s the ASA’s role to not only put these rules in place, but also to make sure that companies are following them. Often, they are first highlighted by complaints from the public, so if something feels amiss then feel free to contact them.
One of the key points that the ASA make about competitions, is to ensure that they don’t fall into the “lotteries” category when it comes to the type of game that is on offer. These competitions should not be a game of chance, and this is why a lot of them come with questions to answer or some sort of game to play, such as spot the ball.
Even though they have questions to answer, the complexity of the questions is another important factor to note. If the question is too easy then the ASA may still deem it to be a lottery given that pretty much everyone will get it right. The question asked needs to be something that has some degree of difficulty to it. There are no guidelines over this though, so it can be interpreted in different ways.
If competitions are found to be too easy – or not competitions at all – then the company will need a license from the UK Gambling Commission in order for them to legally trade. There are some companies that run competitions exclusively who are also licensed by the UKGC. This is more to cover their backs if any of their games run a little close to the line and are in danger of being classed as a competition and/or a lottery.
Gifts and Prizes
Another key point that competitions must clearly specify is whether people are getting gifts or prizes. It may seem as though the two words amount to one and the same thing, but the ASA are actually very strict on them being different. The determining factor here is the number of each that are given out.
For example, if a significant proportion of entrants all get the same award then this deemed to be a gift, but if there are a limited number of items that are distributed to a small percentage of the field then these are deemed as prizes.
Obviously to run as a competition there needs to be prizes, and this has to be clearly outlined by the company before people pay to enter. We used the word “award” in the previous paragraph, but this term is actually a banned as well, as it causes confusion for players who are in the game.
Misleading Chances of Winning/Luck
This is a massive issue that the ASA have cracked down on. The problem here being that companies often promote that players are ‘luckier’ than they actually are with games.
This can happen in a lot of different ways, but a common problem is a competition stating that the chances of winning a prize is higher than they actually are. For example, a competition might state that it has 1,000 entrants involved, when in fact they have 2,000 entrants. This means that players have gone from a presumed 1 in 1000 chance of winning to a 1 in 2000 chance, without being informed.
In addition to this, companies are not allowed to state that players make it to advanced rounds of the game when first entering a competition. This could be for finals or even semi-finals of the draw. These are less common, but still something to be aware of.
Wrongly Implying Consumers Have Won
This is obviously one of the biggest scams that you see from these types of companies. It’s where they state that someone has won a prize and then either don’t deliver the prize that was stated, or not even have a prize in the first place and/or do a fake draw to announce the winner.
These are often obvious based on the profile of the site you are looking at, so if you are playing on bigger sites that have a higher profile then it’s not usually too much of an issue. These guys are also able to track who has won these prizes. They often include YouTube channels for promoting the prize collection videos and they often get a fair amount of social media buzz as well, so that’s well worth checking out.
Fees and costs to collect prizes are also included in this section. Basically, the winner of the prize should not have to incur any costs to claim their prize. A common trick, and one that is specifically outlined by the ASA, is where ‘winners’ have to phone a premium-rate number to give details about where to send their prizes or learn how to collect it. The ASA state that these contact numbers must be freephone if the players are obligated to get in touch with the company.
Players should not have to pay any delivery costs either, and if anything is not included in the prize then this should be outlined. For example, if someone wins a “two-night stay in a 5-star hotel”, then this doesn’t necessarily imply any travel costs to get to the hotel are included. But if the prize is a “luxury mini break” then this does imply travel costs are included, so they have to be part of the prize.
The competition needs to clearly state what prizes are on offer for each game that is played. If the prize isn’t in the possession of the company when the draw is made, then they need to have clear plans covering how it will be sourced.
For example, with BOTB you win a brand-new car in most of their prize draws. The process with this competition is that you can spec the car you want from the dealer, so obviously you won’t have it delivered to you as soon as you win the draw.
There are times where the minimum number of entrants for a competition aren’t reached and this is actually more common than you might think. The company need to have processes in place for this eventuality, such as either paying an equivalent cash reward, a percentage of the pot, or a mixture of the two.
This is another area that competitions need to be really transparent about.
Each competition out there has to include a closing date that entrants can easily find and make a note of, and crucially, the competition must end completely on that date.
If closing dates do change for some reason then the company hosting the competition must state that they will not benefit from the delay or disadvantage the entrants that are already involved or those that might join after the extension.
Essentially this is to stop companies saying a competition is about to end in order to panic people into entering, before extending the competition to get yet more money from further entrants.
Who to Complain to
If you think that a competition is not being run in accordance to the rules set out in this article, then you are able to file a complaint. There are a couple of options in the UK and we have listed them below.
ASA – Advertising Standards Agency
CMA – Competitions and Markets Authority
Telephone: 020 3738 6000
You can write to:
Competition and Markets Authority
25 Cabot Square,