READ THE RULES is one of the best pieces of advice we can give to a comper. However, it's also a great piece of advice for a promoter too. It's incredibly important to get the Terms and Conditions right first time – and increasingly, promoters are failing to do this. In some cases, a cock-up with the terms and conditions can result in an ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) adjudication so it's worth promoters – and entrants - checking them thoroughly.
When you enter a prize promotion, you agree to the TERMS AND CONDITIONS of that promotion (you know, when you tick the box to say you've read them…even if you haven't!). These terms must comply with the CAP (Committees of Advertising Practice) Code. If a promoter doesn't comply with the Code, then a formal complaint can be made to the ASA - this is happening more regularly now as compers get frustrated with badly administered promotions on Facebook, Twitter and websites. The ASA rulings are published weekly, and it can be embarrassing for promoters to be featured, particularly if the press run the story (did you see the Pepsi cheating controversy last year?)
Entrants must be able to EASILY access Terms and Conditions throughout any promotion – and these need to be available to read before or at the time of entry. If space is limited - for example on a Twitter or Pinterest competition - the terms and conditions should be posted on an external site, or even a graphic or a Facebook 'note', and linked. The important thing is that T&Cs exist, and we can easily find them and understand them before we decide to enter. It's certainly not rude to tweet or post a Facebook message asking for a link to the T&Cs if you can't find them (you may have noticed that I'm always asking!)
Some Terms & Conditions are ridiculously long, and can be impossible to check without nodding off. However, if you have the time, it's worth checking for these details:
It might sound obvious, but do you really want to win? Check the T&Cs for full details of the prize(s) first! If it's a holiday, are flights included? It could be a costly prize if not...
How to enter
We disqualify many entrants from PrizeFinder competitions simply because they haven't followed the instructions. If instructions say 'email your entry' then it's no good leaving a blog comment. Entering a competition on a blog, Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook incorrectly or after it's closed gives the impression that you're ignorant and too busy rattling through hundreds of other comps to care - so CHECK the rules before entering. Some promoters really don't like compers, so take the time to do what you're asked to ensure a spot in their good books!
How many times you can enter
Usually T&Cs will state that it's one entry per person. If entry restrictions aren't stated, then you can enter as many times as you like! If rules state 'one entry per household' or 'one entry per IP address', your family members won't be able to enter if you already have - most promoters will still include your first entry, but some will remove ALL your entries from the draw.
How the winner is chosen
Is it a random draw, voting or judged? If it's judged, what are the criteria - funniest photo, most original photo? It's important to know this information before you put hours of effort into a photo or tiebreaker competition. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen people post on Facebook '...but I didn't realise it was a voting competition when I entered!' - read the rules FIRST, then you won't be disappointed!
For voting competitions especially, it's important to know the EXACT time the competition closes - and check that it's GMT (UK time) too. The CAP Code states that closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable. So if a promoter extends the date by a month 'because the competition has been so popular' (in other words, 'because we've not had many entries') that's unacceptable and you can report them to the ASA. For Twitter and Facebook timeline competitions it's hard to tell if the competition has closed if there's no date mentioned - go to the promoter's main page to see if they've announced a winner yet.
If the prize is a film premiere or special trip, it's usually for a certain date and this should be mentioned in the T&Cs. Check you're available before entering, or you'll be very disappointed if you win and can't go!
You might think a holiday looks perfect for your sister, but have you checked the rules to see if it's transferable? Lots of compers win prizes they don't want and then realise they can't pass it on or sell it - read the rules first.
How and when winners will be contacted
This should always be mentioned - if it's not, give the promoter a nudge and ask. T&Cs should state how long winners have to claim their prize (28 days is recommended but many promoters only give you 48 hours!). The names (and counties) of the winners MUST be made available for all prize promotions - if the promoter doesn't publish them, you can contact them and ask for a list privately.
If you're entering a comp that requires effort or voting, copy or print off the original T&Cs - then if they change you will have a reference to the original. It can be infuriating if you spend time on an entry for a judged competition, and then the promoter decides to extend the closing date by a month so more people can enter.
In most cases, a rule change when the promotion is in full swing is NOT acceptable - and if you're not happy, you can make a complaint on the ASA website.
There are lots more important points that should be covered in the Terms & Conditions of any promotion - if you're annoyed that a competition doesn't include all the required information, then message or email the promoter a link to the CAP Code, or find the relevant section yourself and quote it in your message. The two most appropriate sections for compers are Significant Conditions for Promotions and Rules - Prize Promotions.
It's refreshing to see a competition or prize draw with clear, easy to understand Terms and Conditions. If only there were more of them!
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