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Portal's 'win a house' competition ad banned by watchdog

A competition organised by Real Hot Property - which says it “aims to be Europe’s largest property portal” - has been sharply criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority which has upheld two complaints against it.

A series of posts on Real Hot Property’s Facebook page between September and November 2016 last year advertised a competition giveaway for a house worth up to £150,000. The posts featured the text ‘#HouseGiveaway’ or stated ‘win a House of your own choice with Real Hot Property worth upto[sic] £150,000. FREE sign up available. Three different levels of membership…’.

The ASA received two complaints about it, from individuals claiming the conditions of entry and the closing date for entry were amended during the promotion, and who therefore challenged whether the competition had been conducted fairly.

The portal did not respond to the ASA’s attempts to contact it about the complaints.

In a statement today, the ASA says it was concerned about Real Hot Property’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the appropriate advertising code. “We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future” says the statement.

The code says promoters must only exceptionally supplement or amend the conditions of entry of prize promotions with extra rules. In such circumstances, promoters must tell participants how to obtain the supplemental or amended rules and they must contain nothing that could reasonably have influenced consumers against buying or participating.

The ASA understood from the complainants that the promotion’s rules originally required that to enter the prize draw participants must pay to become a member of Red Hot Property’s website: different levels of membership provided different numbers of ‘free’ entries to the prize draw. 

The complainants said the rules were then changed to allow consumers to receive one free entry to the prize draw by becoming a ‘Standard’ member of the website, at no cost. The complainants understood a further entry route was then introduced allowing consumers who booked a holiday through the advertiser to receive 50 free entries to the prize draw.

The competition terms and conditions, as shown on Real Hot Property’s website on October 20 and December 28 last year did not include appropriate information about the costs of registering as a subscriber or the number of prize draw entries available to participants through the various membership levels. 

“We further noted that the terms and conditions did not provide for any entry routes other than via membership of the website, whereas Facebook posts by the advertiser on dates in late September and throughout October and November stated that consumers could obtain 50 free entries to the prize draw by booking a hotel or holiday through Real Hot Property. We therefore noted that the conditions of entry to the promotion had been supplemented and/or amended” says the ASA. 

The code also required that closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter made it necessary, and either that not to change the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms, or those who sought to participate within the original terms would not be disadvantaged by the change.

“We noted that in October 2016 the closing date stated in the promotion terms and conditions on Real Hot Property’s website was November 28 2016, but that in December 2016 the closing date had been changed to April 28 2017. We had not been provided with an explanation as to why the closing date was changed and considered that those who sought to participate within the original terms had been disadvantaged, because it provided time for additional participants to enter the draw, and therefore the odds of winning for participants who had entered before the original closing date had decreased” says the authority’s statement. 

The ASA judged that the promotion “must not appear in the same form again” and told Real Hot Property Ltd to ensure that it did not supplement or amend promotion rules if they contained anything that could reasonably have influenced consumers against participating. The authority also told the portal to ensure its future promotions included relevant applicable significant conditions where their omission was likely to mislead. 

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