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Competition offering house as a prize is blasted as 'misleading'

The perils of property competitions and raffles have once again been demonstrated, this time with the Advertising Standards Authority upholding three complaints about the Win Your Dream Home website.

In July of last year the Winyourdreamhome website offered a competition with a prize of a home in central Scotland with seven bedrooms, a swimming pool, sauna and an acre of private gardens.  

The site also stated also stated “Transfer your competition entry fee to the account below. One ticket = £5, Three tickets = £15 and so on. There is no limit to the number of tickets you can purchase” and featured an entry form, bank account details for transfers and an address for postal entries. 

At the bottom of the page text stated “In the event that the contest winner cannot be contacted within 21 days after the end of the contest a new winner will be chosen. By entering this contest you declare that you have read and agree to the terms and conditions of entry”.

There were three challenges by two complainants - each of which entered the competition - but Win Your Dream Home UK Ltd did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.

The ASA’s findings, released this morning, look at each of the three specific challenges in turn. 

1. The advertised prize of a house valued at £625,000 was withheld and the alternative cash prizes were not of equivalent value;

The ASA noted that both the advertiser’s name and the content of the home page included a number of prominent claims, such as the references ‘Win Your Dream Home’, ‘Win a Luxury Property’, ‘Dream House Competition’, ‘Win Your Dream House Direct’. 

“We considered that, because those references were centred on the prospect of winning the property, consumers were likely to expect from the ad that they would be awarded the property if they had won the competition, regardless of the number of tickets sold” says the ASA.

After explaining that the website said an alternative prize may be offered, the ASA decision this morning continues:

“We considered that any cash alternative that was less than the value of the property, with applicable deductions made prior to the alternative being awarded to the winner, was not a reasonable equivalent to the prize as advertised.

“Based on the information available, we understood that the advertised house had not been awarded in the competition because an insufficient number of tickets had been sold. In the absence of a response from the advertiser, we had also not seen any evidence that a reasonable equivalent prize to the house, valued at £625,000, had been awarded. 

“Because the promoter had not awarded the prize as described in the ad, or demonstrated that a reasonable equivalent cash prize was awarded, we concluded that the promotion breached the Code [of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing] on that basis.”

2. The ad did not make sufficiently clear that a substitute cash prize applied if an insufficient number of tickets were sold;

“We considered the information that an alternative cash prize would be awarded at the discretion of the promoter, based on whether they deemed that sufficient proceeds had been obtained from the tickets, was a significant condition of the promotion likely to influence consumers’ decision to participate or understanding of the promotion, and omission of that information was likely to be misleading” says the ASA.

“The home page did not explicitly and prominently state that a substitute cash prize applied if an insufficient number of tickets was sold. The information was only stated in the terms and conditions of the competition, which consumers could only access if they scrolled down to the bottom of the home page and clicked on the link. 

“We were concerned that consumers would be able to submit entries, by filling in and submitting the entry form on the home page, without having been made aware that the term relating to the alternative cash prize at the discretion of the advertiser was applicable. 

“Because the information about the discretionary alternative cash prize was not specified clearly in the ad, and was only included within the terms and conditions that was not easily accessible, we considered that the ad was misleading.”

3. The subsequent prize draw for the cash prizes was not administered fairly;

“The terms and conditions of the promotion stated that the first prize was the advertised house, the second prize £10,000 cash, and the third prize was £1,000 cash for ten entrants. In addition to the first prize of the property as referred to in point 1 above, we considered that entrants would also expect the second and third cash prizes to be awarded as described.

“Besides that the first prize of the property, or a reasonable equivalent, had not been awarded, the advertiser also had not demonstrated that the second and third cash prizes were awarded as per the terms of the promotion under which participants had entered. 

“We understood that the proceeds were instead split between cash prize winners in the prize draw. We also understood that the promoters had informed participants that they had made charitable donations using proceeds from the tickets. Neither the home page of the website nor the terms of the promotion stated that the proceeds would be used for this purpose. In addition to not awarding any of the prizes as described, we considered that changing the nature of the prizes part way through the promotion was unfair to entrants who had sought to participate under the original terms of the promotion.

“Additionally, the advertiser notified the entrants by email that cash prizes were awarded on 15 May 2018 following the prize draw, over 30 days after the closing date of the promotion on 15 March. One of the complainants had also not been allocated with the correct number of entry tickets for the cash prize draw. We therefore considered that the promoters had not made adequate resources available to administer the promotion or allowed adequate time for each phase of the promotion, and that consumers had been given justifiable grounds for complaint.

“For the reasons outlined above, we concluded that Win Your Dream Home had not dealt fairly and honourably with participants, and were likely to cause unnecessary disappointment, and also had not made adequate resources available to administer the promotion, and therefore the promotion breached the Code.”

The ASA has now told Win Your Dream Home to ensure its future promotions awarded the prizes as described in their marketing communications or reasonable equivalents, and must ensure all appropriate information and conditions be communicated to potential participants. 

“Additionally, Win Your Dream Home must be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants to avoid causing unnecessary disappointment, by ensuring the nature of prizes were not changed during the promotion. They must conduct future promotions equitably, promptly, and efficiently, awarding the advertised prizes within 30 days, and must make adequate resources available to administer promotions.”

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