Wednesday 22 May 2013

You are now entering a restricted zone.....

Recently several people have asked me if it is legal for a promoter to say they will only accept competition entries from a certain region. For instance, some competitions are only open to Scottish residents, and others to the circulation area of a local newspaper (if you do competitions on radio station websites, check the rules very carefully - it is quite common for them to say the competition is only open to listeners living in the BROADCAST area of the station - the fact that you can live in Cornwall and listen to a radio station based in Glasgow is beside the point!).

Well, yes, it IS legal. In fact it is legal to specify not just the geographical location, but the age and gender of entrants - it's as if the age of equal opportunities had never dawned! Why is this? Well, there are lots of reasons:
  • The law. For instance in Scotland, the law about marketing alcohol is different from that in the rest of the UK. And there are laws about marketing certain items to minors which mean they can't enter most adult competitions.
  • The prize. If the prize is a Club 18-30 holiday, or a Saga holiday, then only the age groups those holidays are sold to will be able to enter. If the prize is a day at a women-only spa, men may not be allowed to enter, unless the promoter intends a male winner giving it as a gift. I once saw a competition for a breast enlargement operation. Unsurprisingly, only women were allowed to enter (although I've met a few men who could usefully win a reduction....)
  • The sponsor. Even if the prize isn't something that would affect whether there were any restrictions on who can enter, if the sponsor is, for instance, an alcohol company or one that sells insurance to over 50s, they may want or need to specify who can enter.
  • The location. If the prize is to be collected locally, from a newspaper office or a farm shop, or if the promoter is one like a local newspaper, radio station, salon or delivery service then it is reasonable for them to only accept entries from their area.
  • The  target audience. For instance, magazines such as Loaded,  People's Friend, Gay Times and Mother and Baby would have very different target audiences, and while competitions in such specific publications are usually open to all, they would be within their rights to restrict the entrants.
So all these restrictions are fine - on one condition. They must be made clear before you enter. This normally means they have to be in the terms and conditions, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking them. You soon get tuned in to the old familiar phrases so that anything a little out of the ordinary leaps out as you speed-read through them. If nothing is mentioned in the entry details or rules, and then after winning something you are told, "I'm sorry, we can't award you the prize because you are female and over 50" then you have valid grounds for complaint.

Just asking your sex and age group on the entry form isn't enough - that is usually done just to help them get feedback and target future promotions, or to sort your data for selling on if you haven't opted out of that. Giving your real (ish) age won't - or at least SHOULD'T - affect your chance of winning unless an age group for entrants has been clearly stated, in which case  your entry won't be accepted.

Are all these restrictions a bad thing then? Not necessarily. Why? Because the more restrictions there are, the fewer people are able to enter. And the fewer people who enter, the better YOUR chances are, as long as you fit the entry criteria. Just by specifying men only or women only, half of your potential opposition has been wiped out at a stroke!

The moral of all this is to check for restrictions - if you don't qualify to enter, then it isn't worth trying, but if you DO qualify, then enter that restricted zone, it could give you a great chance of a win.

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