Thursday 9 January 2014

Finding out who won a competition

Have you ever wondered who actually WON a competition you entered? Maybe there were so many prizes that you really thought you or one of your comping friends might have won, or it was a creative competition and you thought your entry was particularly good, or you are just plain curious? Or maybe, unfortunately, you suspect foul play - the prize not being given at all, or being given to friends or family of the promoter.

Before I continue, I must put your mind at rest over one thing. MOST competitions are run honestly and fairly, and the prizes are sent out to genuine winners. Bigger companies tend to run them through promotions agencies, who make sure everything is done scrupulously honestly. Glitches do occasionally occur, often due to the high turnover of staff, when somebody who is dealing with a promotion leaves the company and doesn't brief their successor properly. This probably explains the occasional times I have chased up a winners list and seen familiar names on it - twice even my own name- and know that the winners haven't had their prizes. A quick call to the firm and glitches like that are soon ironed out.

Smaller businesses, though, usually deal with competitions in-house, to avoid the expense of an agency, and often the people running the competitions are unaware of the laws and guidelines they are supposed to follow.

And down at the bottom of the heap, there are the very few businesses who run a competition with no intention of giving away a prize at all, just to build up their database or Facebook likers. Some of these are completely fake pages, set up to farm likes and then sell them, others are rather sleazily run, but still real,  businesses.

Suppose you have entered a competition and want to know who won, either because you are still hopeful of a prize or you think there may have been something underhand going on.

Are you entitled to know?

Yes, you are. You will often be fobbed off with "We can't give you the details because of the Data Protection Act" but that is simply NOT TRUE. Every promoter of every competition run here in the UK, however big or small, must follow the rules on competitions listed in the CAP Codes for Promotions - section 8 is the one that deals with competitions and similar promotions. And according to section 8.28.5 they MUST either publish the names and counties of winners, or make that information available to anyone who enquires about it. These rules apply right across the board, whether the competition is being run by the biggest companies in Britain or a young Mum who sells jewellery through a Facebook page to help to make ends meet. (There are some exceptions for registered charities and private clubs where only members can participate, but even those are obliged to be fair open and honest!)

How do you find out who won?

A letter, phone call or email to the promoter, or a query on their Facebook page, should yield a result. If they start trying to make excuses, send them a link to the CAP guidelines or to this post. They may well simply be unaware of their obligations.

If, however, they still refuse, you can send in a complaint to the Institute of Promotional Marketing  using this form. They will look at your complaint, and may be able to resolve it themselves. If necessary, they will pass it on to the Advertising Standards Authority who will investigate further. You can read about their judgment on one company who refused to give out winners list here.

Oh, and if you spot my name on a list, you WILL contact me to check that I know about it and have received my prize, won't you?

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