Comping is a fun hobby, but when things go wrong who should you contact? Today’s post is some of your common questions about your prize queries and promotion problems, and some advice on making a complaint.
The important websites you should be aware of are:
ASA: Advertising Standards Authority - www.asa.org.uk
IPM: Institute of Promotional Marketing - www.theipm.org.uk
CAP: Committee of Advertising Practice - www.cap.org.uk
I received notification of my prize, but still haven’t received it - what can I do?
Promoters should attempt to deliver your prize within 30 days after either notifying you of your win or 30 days after claiming your prize, whichever is later. If it has been more than this then you should contact them and ask politely when you might expect to receive the prize. If you don’t get a response then you could search for the company’s phone number online – you may be passed from one company to another, but persevere until you speak to the relevant person. Often, you will be notified you’ve won a prize by a magazine and then an agency will organise prize delivery: sometimes the communication channels don’t work and they need chasing. Try not to get stressed out on the phone, as most of the time people DO want to help you out! If there’s still no sign of your prize after 40 days since the initial notification or claiming then you should say that you will go to either IPM or ASA if this is not sorted within (for example) 7 days.
What if my prize isn’t what was advertised?
Have you got a copy of the competition details, or a link? If the link has gone you could try googling the details to see if Google has a cached version of the site. Take a screen grab so you have all the information. Email the promoter with a link to the original prize details and politely explain that what you’ve received isn’t what was originally specified. Only if you don’t receive a reply via email, should you consider venting on their Facebook page or on Twitter. it’s an easy option to take your gripe straight to public forums, but most companies are friendly and will be happy to help, particularly if it’s a problem that can be settled privately! Be careful with venting on Facebook, be too aggressive and it may work to your disadvantage. If you still have no joy, you can take your complaint to the IPM or ASA.
I’ve won a prize and the company has disappeared from Twitter and Facebook
This isn’t a good sign. The promotion is likely to have been a scam, or they’ve gone bust; in either case you’re unlikely to get your prize. If there’s any trace of the competition or the company on the Internet then you could send these links to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for advice. I always recommend if you enter a competition, ask for a link to the terms and conditions at the start – most Twitter and Facebook competitions don’t have them and if things go wrong then unfortunately you’ve got nothing to refer to.
I keep seeing voting competitions on Facebook but I think they’re unfair. How do I complain?
Facebook accepts no responsibility for competitions hosted on the site, so you can’t complain or report promotions to them. Instead, you should contact the page directly: for bigger brand pages, your message is likely to be responded to by a PR or marketing agency rather than the company themselves. To get in touch, you could post a polite comment on their wall explaining your feelings – this approach works well with voting comps, as you will find that others will comment in agreement. If you’d rather not post in public, the company (if they’ve upgraded to Timeline) may have a ‘message’ button for you to contact them privately, or you could ask on the wall for an email address. Voting comps are very controversial – just this week the ASA have upheld a complaint about the Co-operative’s recent ‘Design a Sandwich’ competition, concluding that the promotion was administered unfairly.
The promoter hasn’t announced a winner and are ignoring my requests asking when the prize will be drawn, is there anything I can do?
Winners names and counties MUST be made available for all promotions, so you are right to chase the announcement. You can send the promoter a link to the CAP Code, which states “Promoters must either publish or make available on request the name and county of major prizewinners and, if applicable, their winning entries.”
How do I complain about online promotions?
The Institute of Promotional Marketing will deal with your complaints, and can be contacted at email@example.com. They will sometimes pass the case on to the Advertising Standards Agency. If you feel a promotion is unfair or has been badly handled you can also complain to the ASA directly. Promotions in the UK are regulated by the CAP Code, which states that “Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.”
I missed notification of a win on Facebook from ages ago, and now the promoter won’t send me my prize.
Facebook promotions guidelines state that promoters cannot announce a winner’s name in a wall post or send a private message – they should use an App and contact you via email. If they don’t use an App, and you miss their private message or wall post, then it’s them at fault rather than you. Send them a polite message or email explaining this, and hopefully they will honour your prize, or at least send you a little something to apologise. The IPM best practice guidelines state that promoters should give at least 28 days for winners to claim prizes that aren't time-critical.
What if my prize is costing me money?
Prizes shouldn’t cost you money. If a prize is advertised as a £25 voucher, and when you receive it, it’s a £25 off voucher when you spend £50, you’re within your rights to complain. Before you do, check the terms and conditions in case you missed the small print. Unfortunately, lots of Facebook promotions don’t have T&Cs and many smaller companies use this to their advantage, changing the closing dates, prizes and rules as they go along.
Can the promoter change the rules in the middle of the promotion?
Strictly speaking, terms cannot be changed once the promotion is under way. This is because people will have entered on the basis of the published T&Cs and those form the basis of the contract between the entrant and the promoter. A promoter will often include a term that allows them the right to modify the terms, but this is still a breach of the CAP Code, unless circumstances mean the change was unavoidable.
Finally... social media like blogs, Twitter and Facebook give compers a lot of power. If we ONLY use that power to complain, there’s a danger we might actually put promoters off running competitions! Think twice before you post a complaint on a brand’s Facebook page; a private message or email might be a better first step. Promoters would much prefer to sort out any complaints behind the scenes so as to avoid bad publicity. Always take this approach first before complaining for everyone to see – there is no doubt that some promoters have been put off from offering prizes via social media due to these issues. And remember, if you enjoy a competition then let the promoter know... and if you love your prize, then post up a photo of it. Good/constructive feedback should encourage companies to run even more comps in future, and ideas and suggestions are always well received by the promoter.