When Good Comps Go Bad - How to Complain

Submitted by tpf_kirsty on Mon, 2015-09-07 06:52

Hello everyone!  How was your weekend, any nice wins to report?  Just one win for me last week, but it is a nice one!  I won a gorgeous leather tote bag by Elvis & Kresse from the COOK website, worth £184!  This is a really lovely piece which is lined with reclaimed parachute silk – something I would never be able to own had I not won it in a competition!  It is lovely to win prizes that we wouldn’t normally be able to buy or justify spending money on isn’t it?  It’s one of the best things about our hobby – being able to try new things all from just taking a little time entering our details or completing a relatively simple task.  What’s the best prize you have won that you wouldn’t normally have been able to afford?

However wonderful our hobby is though, sometimes things just don’t go to plan or the way that they should.  This week we are going to have a look at what to do when good comps go bad.

All promotions and competitions in the UK must abide by the British Code of Advertising Practise (the CAP code) as set out by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  This set of rules and guidelines sets out quite clearly what promoters have to do in order to run a competition fairly and legally.  It includes such things as the fact that all competitions must have terms & conditions, must have set closing dates that are adhered to and that anyone is able to request the full winners names from a competition.  Unfortunately not all promoters either know about or adhere to these rules.

When Good Comps Go Bad

Most of the time we all manage to plod along quite merrily entering competitions and (hopefully) winning some lovely prizes, but sometimes there can be problems.  Here are some examples of when it might become necessary to think about complaining about a comp:

  • Closing date deadline extended:  Imagine the frustration caused by rushing to finish a creative entry comp, only to have the promoter has stated that the deadline has been extended.  CAP Code 8.17.4e says that the closing date must not be changed unless there are circumstances beyond the control of the promoter.
  • No Terms & Conditions.  CAP Code 8.28 states that all people entering a comp must have access to the relevant conditions of entry.
  • Promoter won’t announce a winner:  CAP Code 8.28.5 states that all promoters must either publish or make available the major prize winners’ names and county, as well as publishing their winning entry if applicable.  This means anyone has the right to ask a promoter to tell them who won, even if they don’t announce it publically.  I recently encountered this with a local competition during Cowes week, but when I confronted the company they said I was able to send them them a request for the name via post, which I did.
  • A winner has not been chosen randomly.  Cap Code 8.24 states that promoters must ensure that prizes are awarded in accordance with the laws of chance, or by using a computer process that produces verifiably random results.  Most promoters will use an app or widget or a website like random.org, and then take a screenshot of the result, in order to prove that a winner has been chosen fairly.  This also comes into play if you think a company has chosen a fake account or someone associated with the promoter as the winner – definitely not a random choice!
  • Promoter won’t honour a prize, as you didn’t respond quick enough:  We all sometimes get emails from promoters telling us we only have a day to claim our prize, but according to CAP Code 8.22 promoters must not claim that winners must respond by a specified date if they need not.  The exception to this would be when tickets for a gig or specific holiday dates are involved, in which case the promoter probably has the right to pick someone else if the original winner does not respond in good time to claim and attend.

These are just some of the things that can go wrong with competitions, but there are lots of others such as a prize being delivered that isn’t what was promised, a prize not turning up at all, a voting competition involving bought votes or a family holiday competition which cannot be taken in the school holidays! 

With the wide use of social media and everyone being online now it is easier than it has ever been to complain about a competition.  Most of the time a message via email or social media to the promoter, or a post directly on their Facebook wall or Twitter feed if they don’t respond will usually result in the matter being resolved.  Promoters usually don’t want any bad publicity, and will be happy to try and rectify the situation.  I have had to do this on several occasions - often having to publically ask the questions on social media before the promoter replies, but 99% of the time this was enough to resolve the matter.  However if this first, polite, direct course of action doesn’t work, then the ASA is your next port of call.

Complaining to the ASA

  • The first thing you will need to do is collect all the evidence you can.  Create a file on your PC and fill it with documents containing links to the competition Ts & Cs, screenshots of winners being announced, photos of entry forms and examples of dates being changed or text including any entry information.
  • Log onto the Make a Complaint section of the ASA website and begin to submit your complaint as a member of the public.  You need to give them all the details about the type of promotion including whether it is a magazine, postal, online or on-pack promotion etc. 
  • Next upload all your evidence files and a URL link to the promotion or company, if it is still running or available to view.
  • Finally add a detailed description of your complaint.  Consider writing it in Word or some other word processing app first, so you can spellcheck and read through your complaint before you submit it.  You can also save it for further reference in your complaint file on your own PC. 
  • When the ASA has received your complaint they will contact you to let you know if they will take up the matter or not.  They may contact the promoter first and try and resolve the matter quickly, rather than holding a full investigation.
  • If a formal investigation is begun then the promoter will be contacted and asked to produce their own counter evidence, and the ASA will decide if their CAP Code is in breach or not.  A ruling of Upheld (in your favour) or Not Upheld (in the promoter’s favour) will be published on their website.
  • If the ruling is Not Upheld, then no further action will be taken, but if you are unhappy with the decision you can then take the matter to an Independent Review Procedure, which requests a review within 21 days of the ASA ruling.

Hopefully you won’t ever have to use this information, but forewarned is forearmed.  Do drop me a line and let me know your experiences of complaining, either through the ASA or direct to promoters;

Happy comping everyone, and lots of Lucky dust to you all!

Kirsty x


Submitted by Hesperus on Mon, 2015-09-07 12:17


"Consider writing it in Word or some other word processing app first, so you can spellcheck and read through your complain before you submit it."

I think you mean complaint!! ;-)

A good post though, I have had quite a few wins recently that have said I have to respond within a few days!