Unlike house prices, upheld complaints against promotions involving properties seem to be on the increase.
In an example from 26 June, the upheld complaint was against a company called Raffle House.
A lucky winner would win a flat in Brixton, London, worth £650,000.
The promotion left the ASA in a real estate, for a number of reasons.
The ASA held that it hadn't been administered fairly because the method of entry was changed during the course of this long running social-media promotion.
The ASA also objected to the fact that there was no clear and prominent closing date.
A closing date is a significant limitation and one which has to be made clear. This requirement applies to the vast majority of advertisements for competitions and prize draws.
They also found the Raffle House promotion in breach of the CAP Codes due to the fact that the closing date was extended after the promotion had already started - it was actually extended by an entire year according to the ASA ruling.
Attempts made by Raffle House to ensure those who had already entered were treated fairly and equitably, and to minimise their disappointment, were not considered adequate by the ASA.
Raffle House founder and chief executive Benno Spencer said: "We treat matters such as this with the utmost seriousness and have attempted to enter into a dialogue with the ASA regarding a number of incorrect hypotheses contained in their rulings."
Why should advertisers care?
The lesson here, one which we come across all too often, is that promotions need to be considered carefully before they are launched. In particular, the terms and conditions (certainly the most important terms) shouldn't be changed once the promotion has started, and the closing date shouldn't be extended save in extremely limited circumstances.
It's worth noting that a disappointing uptake is not a good enough reason to amend a promotion or extend a closing date.
It is very difficult to amend a promotion in a way which, from the ASA's perspective, is fair to both existing and new entrants.
Pay to enter promotions and the Gambling Act
The ASA didn't investigate (and as far as we know the Gambling Commission isn't investigating) whether or not the new entry mechanism, which is described as being 'risk free', is lawful, or whether the promotion might be an illegal lottery. We make no comment on that here, save to mention that Raffle House's FAQ's make clear they are confident the promotion is being operated lawfully without a licence in line with the requirements of the Gambling Act.
The full ruling can be found here.
**UPDATE 3 JULY**
In a further ruling on exactly the same point, another company (millionaire mansion) extended the closing date for their 'win a dream home' promotion by 12 months. Unsurprisingly, the ASA upheld the complaint against them. In that case Millionaire Mansion argued, creatively, that this wasn't an advertisement but an individual contract with each entrant which allowed them to vary the closing date, and that this fell outside of the ASA's remit. It was an interesting argument, but doomed to fail, because this had clearly involved a promotion and the promotion wasn't conducted in line with the CAP Codes.
Fortunately for the promoter, the ASA's powers are limited - they cannot issue fines for example. So it might have been a risk worth taking.
We have seen so many 'win a house' related promotions which have been found to breach the CAP Codes recently. There are others which carry a significant risk of breaching the Gambling Act (though we make no judgment as to whether either of the promotions mentioned in this article breached the Gambling Act). It would come as no surprise if the ASA began referring these promotions to Trading Standards or the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the future.
Promoters of 'win a home' promotions should ensure they have their house in order!
The full ruling can be found here.
Two people complained and said Raffle House had changed its method of entry mid-way through the promotion. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said this and an extension of the closing date were in breach of code.