Did the Boaty McBoatface competition bend the rules?

PromoVeritas on screen: Inside Cadbury on Channel 4
17th September 2019

What connects an ASA ruling on a promotion to win a sports car with the launch of a research ship by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this week? They both highlight the importance of clearly stating the rules for every promotion, big and small.

Elite Competitions is a website that sells tickets for prize draws that offer high value prizes to the public. The ASA received complaints that two promotions to win a car, selling tickets costing £30 and £11, breached the CAP Code because a free entry route was not displayed prominently. A no purchase necessary route is required when a pay-to-enter promotion does not offer a game of skill, or where the cost of entry is inflated, otherwise a gambling license is required. In this instance there was a free entry route, it just wasn’t signposted well enough and although Elite Competitions argued that they had made it clear on their website that there was an NPN route, the ASA upheld the complaints.

They found that whilst both ads did indeed state “See below for free entry method” at the top of the web page, this led to a trail which ended in a set of lengthy Terms & Conditions posted elsewhere. This was not considered “sufficiently prominent” by the ASA, who concluded that the ads were misleading and in breach of the rules 8.17 and 8.17.2 (Significant Conditions) of the CAP Code.

Meanwhile Prince William and Kate formally named a polar research ship Sir David Attenborough, even though the public had voted to name it Boaty McBoatface in a competition run by the Natural Environment Research Council back in 2016. Despite over 124,000 votes for the humorous name, others in the running included Ussain Boat and RSS Ice Ice Baby, the clever people at NERC had done their homework and inserted a clause into their Terms & Conditions, that vetoed the public’s choice.

It goes without saying that having a solid set of Terms & Conditions is an essential part of every promotion, but displaying them clearly is just as important. Burying them at the back of your website or not adding a link to a promotional post can get you into trouble and be construed as misleading the public. To ensure that you always run it right when it comes to promotions contact PromoVeritas on 0203 325 6000 or email info@promoveritas.com.

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