Following eight complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against Ogilvie Promotions Limited which extended the entry period of its promotion to win a "Millionaire Mansion".

The opportunity to win a mansion for a £10.50 entry fee was extended from the original closing date of 31 November 2018 by 12 months after, according to Ogilvie, "unavoidable circumstances" beyond its control made an extension necessary. 

The unavoidable circumstances cited by Ogilvie included an unwell employee and some unspecified technical issues. In reality,  its seems that the number of entrants was disappointing for such a significant prize and the promoters were trying their luck.

The CAP Code is very clear on this point:

  • closing dates for competitions must not be changed unless essential due to unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter ; AND
  • either:
    • not to change the closing date would be unfair to those who participated within the original terms; or
    • those who sought to participate within the original terms would not be disadvantaged by the change

The ASA did not consider the unavoidable circumstances cited by Ogilvie to be an acceptable excuse and the extension was clearly unfair to, and disadvantaged, existing participants -  increasing the pool of competitors decreased the chance of winning. 

Competitions don't always go to plan but the CAP Code exists to protect consumers and changes to competition T&Cs are rarely acceptable. 

Interestingly, however, the competition T&Cs have gone some way to protect the promoter and the full extent of the prize will not be awarded. No one is winning a mansion. 

The competition was closed on 26 June and in an email to participants they were informed that 1 winner would receive £100,000 and 9 runners up would receive £10,000. 

The T&Cs stated:

2.5. In the event that the Promoter does not receive more than 500,000 Entry Forms, the Promoter reserves the right to substitute the Prize with a cash alternative which shall be equal to the amount of the total amount of Payment received with the Entry Forms less: 2.5.1. The booking fee; 2.5.2. 20% to cover the charitable donation; and 2.5.3. 40% for administration/promotion costs or the actual costs incurred by the Closing Date whichever is the lower.

If the above does not reach £100,000, a minimum prize of £100,000 will be awarded.

Re-aligning the rules of a promotion to suit the promoter will never fly but including caveats and restrictions within the T&Cs seems to be acceptable to the ASA.

What remains unclear and was not considered by the ASA in its ruling is the role of 'significant conditions'. Under the CAP Code, promoters are required to publish all significant conditions relating to a promotion upfront rather than buried away within the T&Cs. Perhaps, as Ogilvie suggested, this is a contractual issue between the participants and the promoter rather than a matter for the ASA but to me, Rule 2.5 of these T&Cs is clearly a significant condition which does not appear to have been appropriately highlighted.