HomeInsightsCommittees of Advertising Practice publish advice note on dealing with unexpected events when running promotions

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CAP acknowledges that promoters might have found that the unexpected situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic has derailed some of their carefully laid promotion plans. It reminds readers that several rules in Section 8 of the CAP Code acknowledge the possibility of unexpected events happening and set out what a promoter should do.

CAP explains that, generally speaking, promoters must be able to demonstrate that the unexpected situation made it necessary to rethink elements of the promotion, and that where this was the case, this was done in line with the rules.

The ASA is conscious that in this time of national crisis, it must act sensitively and with due regard to the circumstances faced by businesses. However, CAP reminds readers that it will not take lightly any situation where any advertiser has taken advantage of the situation for financial gain or otherwise acted to mislead or disadvantage consumers.

The advice note sets out some key points to consider in the current health crisis:

  • Availability of promotional items has been affected: promoters must be able to show that they have made a reasonable estimate of demand for a promotional item. If, having done so, promoters know they will not be able to meet it, they should provide sufficient information, presented clearly and in a timely fashion, to allow consumers to make an informed decision on whether or not to participate (Rule 11). Merely including a statement along the lines of “subject to availability” is not enough to relieve promoters of their obligations to avoid disappointing participants because of availability issues (Rule 8.9);
  • Changing the terms and conditions: Rule 23 states that conditions of entry for prize promotions must only be amended in exceptional circumstances and sets out what promoters must do in these circumstances. Promoters must be able to demonstrate why the exceptional circumstances have made it necessary for them to amend any conditions and, where they have had to do so, they must demonstrate that they have taken sufficient steps to inform participants on how to obtain the supplemental or amended rules. They should also ensure that the amended rules contain nothing that could reasonably have influenced consumers’ decisions to buy or participate in the original promotion. Promoters must also always ensure that they deal with participants and potential participants fairly and honourably, must not cause unnecessary disappointment, and should not give consumers justifiable grounds for complaint;
  • Changing the closing date: under Rule 17.4, closing dates must be included in all ads for promotional marketing, where they apply. Closing dates must not normally be changed, but there may be unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter that make this necessary. In such cases, promoters must be able to demonstrate why this is necessary and even in these circumstances the date should only be changed if one of the following applies: (i) either not changing the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms; or (ii) those who sought to participate within the original terms will not be disadvantaged by the change; and
  • Unable to award the prize initially advertised: Rule 15.2 states that promoters must award the prizes as described in their marketing communications or reasonable equivalents, normally within 30 days. The current situation may make this impossible, but that does not mean that promoters can cancel a promotion without awarding any prize at all. Promoters should still award the prize as soon as they can, or award a reasonable equivalent, of roughly equal value, where the advertised prize cannot be awarded. Promoters should always communicate with their winners about the realities of the situation and treat them fairly.

To read the advice note in full, click here.