Ireland is divided into the Republic of Ireland (ROI) in the south, and Northern Ireland in the north. The ROI came into being in 1922 as a separate and free state withs its own laws, although as member of the EU, European regulations also come into play. Similarly, although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and its common law is like those of England and Wales, it has its own parliament and its law is distinctive from the rest of the UK. So how do these laws affect running promotions?
All promoters wishing to run promotions in the Republic of Ireland must adhere to the Irish Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-1986. This means that games of chance that are linked to purchase require a lottery licence – even if a ‘no purchase necessary’ (NPN) route is offered. To avoid this requirement, promotions must be totally free to enter. Alternatively, promoters must obtain a lottery licence which can be done by first obtaining a charity licence. Brands can form an association with a charity so that they can obtain a lottery licence on their behalf. As lottery licences are granted for specific periods it can be difficult to find a charity that doesn’t already have one. Other things to consider with lottery licences is the cost, a minimum of £2000 plus a substantial donation to the charity as well restrictions on the value of the prizes, and the length of time the licences take to grant – at least 6 weeks.
Moving on to Northern Ireland, the most important aspect of NI law for promoters is that purchase associated promotions are viewed as gambling. An NPN entry route is required for prize draws that do involve a purchase. This directly conflicts with the UK CAP Code and Consumer Protection Regulation (CPR) and the Gambling Act 2005 which stipulates that promoters no longer need to offer an NPN route for purchase linked promotions. However, the Gambling Act does not apply to Northern Ireland, so a mechanism whereby the public can enter a promotion without paying, or by paying no more than the cost of a stamp or standard rate text message, is required.
There have been calls to bring NI law into line with the rest of the EU but so far this has not happened. Promoters running UK-wide or international prize draws have several options. The first is to exclude Northern Irish residents from entering, the second is to set up an NPN route for Northern Ireland only and the third is to dismiss NI law and simply follow the EU’s rules.
Having an NPN rule does not form part of the CPR and therefore choosing the 3rd route – not having an NPN route for entrants – would mean that the promotion is legally in line with EU and UK laws. The UCPD is a ‘maximum harmonization directive’ meaning that each member state passes its own legislation following the standard led by the directive but are prohibited from apply standards stricter (or more relaxed) than those in the EU’s Directive. And because the European Court of Justice is a higher legal entity than the courts of Northern Ireland it would stand to reason that UCPD would have higher supremacy over NI law.