Monday, 9 March 2009

Don't be a prize criminal!

A common marketing tool is the competition and very successful they can be too (especially when they involve handbags in Fashionista's view!).

However, it is worth remembering there are laws which impact on how they can be structured and run. Many readers will have been all too aware of last year's furore about numerous TV phone in shows which kept the newspapers busy for months. But laws don't only apply to television competitions and phone-ins and could therefore bite on any website or print competition as well.

Below are some tips on what to look out for:

  • If an entrant has to pay to enter (this could for example be by using a premium phone in line, purchasing a product or making another form of payment) and then the winner is selected based on chance, you could be deemed to be running an unlicensed lottery.
  • If there is a payment to enter and the outcome depends on both chance and skill (for example you may have a qualifying question and then the winner is selected from the correct answers), you could be providing unlicensed gambling services.
  • If entrants have to enter on the basis of deciding if something is true or not true or the outcome of an event, then you could be inadvertently providing unlicensed betting services.
  • If in doubt, always make sure that there is a (truly) free means of entry to any competition with no strings attached that is prominently advertised or only run with the same format over and over again which you have had compliance checked.

Providing unlicensed services of the type listed above is in fact a criminal offence enforceable by the Gambling Commission and local authorities so it is worth taking that extra bit of time to check your competitions fall on the right side of the law.