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Planning a promotion?

Don’t fall foul of the ASA system – competitors and members of the public will not hesitate to report you if you get it wrong!

Like most retailers, you’ll probably be planning some exciting marketing activity for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Part of that might be a special promotion or competition running for a few weeks.

Promotions include a range of activities from money off and multi-buy offers to competitions and prize draws. If you run one, you’re what the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) calls “the promoter” and therefore you’re responsible for the whole operation.

The ASA is often seen as a stern authority figure dishing out harsh words to any companies including retailers who go too far with claims and statements. However, these folk have kindly given some pointers which, if followed, could keep you out of trouble as far as promotions are concerned.

1 Plan ahead

Plan your promotion carefully and make sure you have the time and resources at every stage to administer it fairly and effectively, so you don’t encounter avoidable problems during the promotion or give consumers justifiable grounds for complaint. Make sure you’ve given thought to any possible risks, such as technical issues affecting entries or being unable to supply the prize, and how you can mitigate them.

2 Include all conditions

Make sure you include all of the significant conditions for your promotion in your marketing. For example, conditions which could affect whether someone chooses to participate or not. These will differ depending on the promotion but normally include a clear explanation of how to participate, closing dates, the nature and number of prizes or gifts, any restrictions and availability.

3 Provide full T&C’s

Any other terms and conditions should be clearly signposted in your marketing so they’re available to consumers before or at the time of entry. They need to be easily accessible and remain accessible throughout the promotion. These may include any restriction on the number of entries, whether there is a cash alternative to a prize, and how and when winners and results will be announced.

4 Don’t change those T&C’s!

Changing the terms and conditions after the promotion has started is usually likely to disadvantage those who entered on the original terms and cause unnecessary disappointment. If you really can’t avoid making changes, bear in mind that they should only be made in the most exceptional circumstances and only if the changes wouldn’t have originally influenced someone’s decision to participate. Creating and enforcing T&C’s in retrospect is unacceptable, even in instances of abuse.

5 Subject to availability?

Promoters must make a reasonable estimate of the likely response to their promotion and be able to demonstrate they have done so. If the availability of promotional items is not sufficient to meet this demand, or if customers need to make a purchase to qualify for the promotional item, you must make any limitations on availability explicitly clear – “subject to availability” might not be enough.

6 Award the prize

Always award the prize as described in your marketing or a reasonable equivalent. Make sure that any alternative prizes are genuinely reasonable equivalents. For example, awarding a hotel room for a few nights is not a reasonable equivalent to a prize described as a week in a luxury eight-bed cottage.

Refusing to award a prize is only acceptable if none of the participants met the qualifying criteria set out clearly in the promotion as well as the T&Cs. Withholding the prize, or indeed extending the closing date, solely because the promotion didn’t attract enough entries is not acceptable.

If you’re not sure whether your promotion follows the rules, the ASA has a ‘copy advice team’ which can be reached via

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