Do You Run Contests or Giveaways on Your Blog? Are You Sure They’re Legal?

Cartoon pic of man at computer

photo credit: office coffee via photopin (license)

Many of us run the occasional promotion on our blog in the form of giveaways or contests. Having had experience over a number of years of running competitions in jobs I’ve had, I was aware of a lot of the legislation that exists, however I had never really thought about it much in terms of my blog. I decided to look into it, naively thinking I could just do a little bit of research and then post the main rules on here for any other bloggers who may be interested. Turns out it’s far more complex than I had realised.

This post is going to be quite long, and frankly not very interesting for anyone who doesn’t run prize promotions on their blog, so if that’s you, you may as well stop reading now, I won’t be offended, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!

For the rest of you (and I know I’m going to lose more of you along the way)…

Let’s Begin

As you can imagine there is different legislation in different countries, and in different states/territories/areas within countries. And even within those, there isn’t just one piece of legislation – depending on what type of prize promotion you are running (I’m going to use the term “prize promotion” to cover all types of contests and giveaways), you could need to refer to legislation about prize draws, giveaways/sweepstakes, competitions/contests, lotteries, promotion/advertising/marketing, gambling, gaming, data protection, equality etc. Plus there are many variances in terminology that can be confusing, and when you do read the legislation, you have to contend with all that Paragraph 6 Section 4(b) Schedule 7 type of malarkey.

I couldn’t possibly cover everything in this post (nor would you want me to), so instead I’m going to draw out some key points which you may want to think about (although PLEASE do note my disclaimer at the end).

The first question that sprung to my mind, and possibly yours is this – if you’re running an online prize promotion on your blog, and you are allowing entries from around the world, do you have to comply with the legislation of all countries? The short answer is yes (eek!). The long answer is yyyeeeesssss (eeeekkk!).

Let’s ignore that question for now (I’ll come back to it later), and answer some others…

Doesn’t all this legislation only apply to businesses/corporations?

No. A lot of it won’t be relevant to little ms/mr blogger, but much of it is, and you’d be wise to inform yourself of it.

Are there some general rules that apply in all countries?

What? You expect me to have read the legislation for ALL countries? Get real! I have however looked at the legislation for several countries, and what I can say is that there are some general rules that seem common to many.

Primarily, for the types of prize promotion we are talking about, there are three main categories:

  1. A free prize draw Also known as a giveaway, or a sweepstake. It is free to enter, and the winner/s are drawn at random. (in some countries, free prize draws are generally free of direct legislation, although you do of course still need to comply with common laws. In other countries free prize draws with no skill element required to enter are not allowed). Remember that if it’s random, it really must be random; a simple way is to attribute a number to each entrant and then use an online random number generator.
  2. A competition or contest These involve some skill or special knowledge to be demonstrated in the entry, and may or may not involve a cost, or purchase required, to enter. The winner/s are judged on merit of their entry, and not by random selection.
  3. A lottery This involves a payment to enter, and the winner/s are drawn randomly.

Be clear on those distinctions because mixing them could run you into trouble. If you require entrants to pay something, or buy something, in order to enter and then the winners are chosen randomly, you could be deemed to be running an illegal lottery or possibly a gambling operation depending on the nature. And if they are required to play a game of chance, this could be an illegal gaming operation, EVEN if payment is not involved (Whhaaattt?).

Almost everywhere, if you run a lottery, or any form of gambling, or gaming, you need a permit. Therefore if you are requiring people to pay something in order to enter, then there MUST be a skill/knowledge element to enter, and the winner MUST be judged on merit of their entry, and not randomly or by chance. And you need to have something in the case of a tie, that also isn’t random.

To add some more complication. When I spoke of “payment” to enter, in some countries, mainly the US, payment is classed as “consideration”, and other things can also count as consideration, such as time invested in making an entry, which can count has having paid to enter, and therefore to reiterate, there MUST be a skill/knowledge element involved, and the winner MUST be judged on merit of their entry. I’ll also throw in here another point, sometimes it’s ok to have a payment type entry, with a random drawing, as long as there is an alternative free entry route that is as easy, and as well publicised as the payment route entry (I’m a bit fuzzy on the details of this aspect). Rafflecopter entries presumably cover this well because whilst they may have some entry options that involve some “consideration” there are others that do not, so they’re covering all bases. I saw talk on one lawyer’s site which implied that even asking people to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ something could potentially be classed as consideration.

Are you following this? Good, let’s complicate it further…

What is meant by skill/knowledge?

In many countries, the skill/knowledge required to enter, mustn’t be so simple that the vast majority of people could do it, so it couldn’t just be a question that was say “What is 2+2?” You may be wondering where the line is drawn between what is too simple, and what is acceptable right? Well indeed, and there is no definitive answer, that would be for a court to decided if it got to that stage.

In the case of blog contests, we quite often see creative skill required, to draw something, or write something, or come up with an idea for something. These are skill contests, and thus winners must be awarded on merit and not by random drawing.

Got that? Here’s a bit more…

Does “free entry” mean completely free?

When we talk about “free entry”, the cost of a phone call, text message, internet usage cost, or postal stamp to enter would still be classed as free entry as long as they are at the standard rates; any premium rate calls, or special postal delivery costs etc would then be classed as paying to enter, unless there is also an equally valid free route.

Is it ok to ask people to buy something in order to enter?

When we talk about “Purchasing a product” in order to enter, this is fine as long as the cost of the product required to enter the contest isn’t more expensive than the product costs anyway. And in some cases, purchasing a product to enter can still count as free entry (I’m not going to explain this one further, as it’s another area I’m a bit fuzzy on).

If I’m running a skill based contest on my blog, is it ok for me to be the one who judges it?

This one is a bit tricky (you know, like most of the rest of it). The UK legislation says that where the judging of results could be subjective (i.e. it’s not something with a right or wrong answer) you must always have an independent judge, you can be a judge too as part of a panel, but there must be at least one independent person. I found this in the legislation of a couple of other countries too, but not all those I looked at; do check that one out yourself (I’m not doing EVERYTHING for you). Either way, you must state clearly what the judging criteria is.

Are there restrictions on what you can give away as prizes?

Yes, in many countries you need a permit if the value of your prize is over a certain amount (generally much higher than would apply to most of us bloggers). Also, there are prize restrictions on items that are restricted (funnily enough), such as alcohol.

Do I have to list the terms and conditions of the contest, and if so, what must be included?

Yes, listing the terms and conditions is as much to protect you as anything else. There are lots of examples online of what should, or could, be included in the Ts and Cs, so do an online search for that and find something suitable. One point to keep in mind, when you state the closing date/time of a contest, remember to take account of time differences if it’s open to residents outside of your time zone, and specify which time zone your closing time refers to.

Are you nearly finished here Vanessa because I’m getting soooo bored?

I sure am. As well as reading my disclaimer below, remember that my notes above are a broad overview of SOME of the rules that MAY be applicable in your country or area. My mind keeps going back though to my first question, about whether an online contest open to everyone must comply with the legislation of every country. Because if it’s true that it must, then we’re kind of screwed….except, I saw on one law site where they suggested including the words “Void where prohibited” in the rules/Ts and Cs, which then puts the onus on entrants to find out whether they are eligible to enter from their country or not. Although of course if you do that, then presumably you’d still need to check out the legislation yourself for the country that the winner comes from, to be sure they are eligible before you give them the prize? But maybe that’s the only way around it, and it may be the way I go from now on. Did I mention how complex this all is?

Also worth noting, Facebook and Twitter have their own rules if you run prize promotions on there that you should seek out and adhere to.

For any of you that have stayed with me to the end of this post, congratulations, I would give you a prize except I’m not sure if I’m allowed…

Were you aware of all of the rules/some of the rules? Do you let it affect how you run prize promotions or do you just do it the way you want to and keep your fingers crossed that it won’t ever be an issue?

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this post is correct to the best of my knowledge, however, I am not a lawyer, nor do I claim to be any kind of expert on the law. Nothing in this post should be taken as legal advice. Always do your own research and/or get legal advice before running any kind of promotional activity on your site.

These are some of the websites that I looked at when researching this post:
cap.org.uk
competitionagency.com
contests.about.com
dca.ca.gov
definitions.uslegal.com
dlapiper.com
dmaresponsibility.org
gamblingcommission.gov.uk
gambling-law-us.com
jonesday.com
money.howstuffworks.com
out-law.com
quora.com
sarafhawkins.com
targetmarketingmag.com
thompsoncoburn.com

I Apologise for Our Sandwiches

Worst sandwich sign

British food doesn’t have the best reputation around the world. I can get defensive when people criticise British food (can’t I Mike), but the reputation is certainly partly justified. As I see it, it’s not that British people don’t appreciate good food, or can’t tell the difference between good food and bad food, it’s more the case that historically we’ve probably been more willing to put up with bad food than say the Americans are. Our tolerance levels of what is acceptable are higher. And of course traditional dishes and food of one nation aren’t necessarily to the taste of other nations if they haven’t grown up on it.

Conversely, a lot of Brits who haven’t visited the States have the impression that the majority of Americans live mainly on junk food, again, a reputation that is perhaps partly justified – and again, having previously lived for a few years in the States, I find myself on occasions getting defensive about American food when I come across the “All they eat is junk food and buckets of coke” attitude.

There are many good restaurants in the UK, and we regularly turn out world-class chefs, but I totally get why American visitors over here can get a bad impression of British food, especially while they’re out doing touristy things and grabbing food on the go. Take sandwiches as an example. The Americans really know how to do sandwiches. Mostly, we don’t. Sure, there are places over here where you can get decent sandwiches, but there are still vast amounts of frankly terrible sandwiches being served. I apologise for our sandwiches on behalf of my nation. And let’s not even talk about some of the pathetic excuses for burgers that are served here. The food served inside tourist attractions over here is generally not great.

But let’s redress the balance a little, I’m sure Americans would agree that you can also get plenty of bad food over there. I lived in Vegas for a few years, and some of the cheaper buffets were pretty nasty, one particular casino that shall remain nameless had a buffet with the reputation around town of “All you can keep down for $4.99.”

Over 350lbs sign

photo credit: CIN SITY via photopin (license)

There are some food items that I think we do better over here in the UK, overall. I’m not going to do a long comparative list of which items I think are better here and which there. Well that’s not exactly true, I DID start doing a long list but then decided it was a bit dull, so scrapped it.

I do think things are improving over here, but I don’t think I’m being unfair to say that the average food establishment in the States is still probably much better than the average food establishment over here, and when I say “better” I’m talking about quality, presentation, taste, and value. Having said that, I haven’t actually eaten in the States for several years, but I’m assuming the quality hasn’t suddenly gone downhill, plus I’ve seen many episodes of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, so I know all that is worth knowing about casual dining stateside.

There are plenty of good places here, but you have to know where to go, and a tourist without guidance is very likely to end up at some disappointing food places, thus affirming the impression they already had that British food is not good.

If you have experienced first hand (and by “first hand” I mean actually in the countries themselves) both British and American food, what would you pick out as the highs or lows of either or both?

The Envelope Please…

Audience

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming along today, I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting for the results of the prestigious ‘Suggest Something Silly For Vanessa To Do’ prize. So without further ado, I would like to announce that the winner of the life-changing £10 (approx US $15) Amazon Gift Card, randomly drawn from the selection of people who made silly suggestions is…Jackie P from To Breathe is to Write, congratulations Jackie! I’ll be in touch. I do hope you won’t let this new wealth change you because you’re pretty awesome just as you are.

We’ve already seen me wearing a colander on my head to count down the new year, (thanks Carrie). Which suggestion will I take up next? Winner Jackie’s suggestion was:

‘How about a question and answer video? But with a twist! Every question you answer has to be done in mime form. You can read the question, then answer in mime. Sort of an off the wall charades!’

Any ideas for questions I could answer in mime?

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photo credit: Politicians and media leaders via photopin (license)

The Picasso Dilemma

People looking at a Picasso painting

The dilemma goes like this. There is a burning building, inside is a child and a Picasso painting. You can only save one, which do you choose?

“What dilemma?” I hear you cry. “There’s no dilemma, OBVIOUSLY you save the child!” Obviously you do…although…hmmm…if you save the Picasso, you could sell it and buy mosquito nets for Africa, potentially saving thousands of children (and before anyone says it, yes I know the Picasso probably wouldn’t be ours to sell, but this isn’t a real scenario people, we’re just discussing the concept!). Saving the Picasso therefore potentially results in a greater good. I came across this dilemma on a BBC news article in December about giving to charity, and it keeps popping back into my mind, so I thought I’d share it with you – hey don’t mention it, it’s what I’m here for!

So the dilemma remains. Even if we accept the logic that saving the Picasso would potentially do more good, if it came to it, if we were really in that position and faced with that decision, how many of us could actually turn our backs on that child that is right in front of us? It’s far easier to turn our backs on the thousands of children in Africa who need us, we can’t see those children, we can’t hear their cries, they’re easier to ignore. Ouch.

What does the decision say about us? Are we being human and compassionate by saving the child in front of us, by reacting to that direct need and cry for help in front of us? Or are we being hugely selfish and just doing that for ourselves, because we couldn’t live with ourselves if we had turned away from the child in need that was right in front of us? But if our instinct is to save the child in front of us, then maybe that is the right decision? After all, our human instincts have evolved to where they are for a reason. Or have we evolved to think beyond our instincts rather than blindly follow them? Which is it?

Goodness, this is pretty intense stuff compared to what usually goes on around here isn’t it. I don’t offer an apology for that though, it’s good sometimes to question ourselves, and what motivates us. Clearly the concept I’m discussing here doesn’t just apply literally, we can no doubt relate it wider.

Any thoughts? (Preferably thoughts related to what I’ve just written about, but not necessarily, I’ll take any thoughts).

While we’re talking about mosquito nets (and this wasn’t the original purpose of writing this post, but it seems a shame to waste the opportunity), if you want to help the fight against malaria, you can donate to the Against Malaria Foundation. A net costs $2.50, and 100% of public donations go on buying nets.

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photo credit: IMG_0951.jpg via photopin (license)

Is This Hat Ridiculous Enough Carrie?

Vanessa in a colander hat

If you missed my last post because you were Christmasly absent, you still have time to enter to win a prize! In short I’m asking people to suggest silly, frivolous things I can do over the year, and show on my blog. Carrie Rubin suggested that I count the new year in down from 10, and then finish with a tuck jump, wearing a ridiculous hat.

Well ok then! Here is the video of me doing that – for obvious reasons it had to be done in one take, so it’s not…erm…COMPLETELY perfect. First the video starts from me counting 9 not 10, secondly I seem to be having trouble holding up the right number of fingers as I count down, next my tuck jump is rather pathetic, and finally my son interpreted in his own way my request that he throw a handful of sparkly stars over me at the end. But at least it was fun, and that was the objective!

If you want to join in, and be in with a chance of winning, you have until 15 January to do so, pop back over to the previous post and leave your suggestion in the comments there (but don’t forget to leave a comment here first about how hilarious you found the video, not for my benefit you understand, just so that Carrie feels her suggestion was appreciated! Yep, that’s the reason, for Carrie’s benefit, I’m fine, but she needs that kind of reassurance you know).

What fun have you had so far this year?

10 Minutes More (and a Chance to Win a Prize!)

New Year 1950

After swimming a couple of months ago, I was showering next to two people (don’t worry, this post isn’t going in THAT sort of direction, I’m just setting the scene). The guy was in his 60s I guess, and he was chatting to a woman.

(I’ll get to the prize thing in a minute, stay with me).

She asked him if he still swam for an hour every day, and he replied that he now swims for an hour and 10 minutes every day. He went on to tell her that he had made a decision in his life a while back to give everything an extra 10 minutes. “If I can swim for an hour, I can swim for an hour and 10 minutes right?” he said, “If I can work in my garden for two hours then I can do it for two hours and 10 minutes. If I can do my paperwork for half an hour then I can do it for 40 minutes, see?” He explained that giving everything just that little bit more time, pushing himself just that little bit more, made him feel generally more satisfied with himself and with what he was achieving.

As we head towards the end of 2015, many people will be thinking of new year’s resolutions. We all know that most new year’s resolutions are likely to be abandoned before January is out, but that doesn’t stop many of us setting some anyway. What that man in the shower said has stayed with me, and my resolution therefore is going to be to give things 10 minutes more. It doesn’t always have to be a literal 10 minutes of course, it’s about giving things just a little bit more effort, a little bit more focus, a little bit more time. Generally when we think we’re done, we could probably give it just a little bit more. All those little bits should add up to a lot right?

So that’s my sensible, but not very exciting resolution. My other resolution is to do more silly frivolous fun things, just because. So here is where the prize thing comes in. I’m giving away a £10 (or your equivalent, e.g. $15 US), Amazon gift certificate. All you have to do is suggest something fun or silly I can do, if it’s challenging then so much the better. It does need to be something that I can practically do and that I can evidence having done with a photo or video on the blog. Anyone who suggests something in the comments will go into the random drawing for the prize, your suggestion doesn’t have to be a good one to be in with a chance of winning. Additionally I will aim to do as many of the suggestions as I can over the year.

You have until 15 January to enter. I’m giving quite a long time because some people are away from the blogs until the new year, so I’ll post a reminder at some point. And Happy New Year to you all!

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photo credit: 78/100: Drink via photopin (license)

Three Things Wot I’ve Been Doing Lately

123

Thing Number 1 – Struggling to Travel on the Train

Every few weeks I need to take the train somewhere for my job. Lately I’ve had issues…

  • A couple of months ago I threw my train ticket away in a bin outside St. Pancras station. As soon as I threw it I remembered that I still needed it for the final leg of my journey. Unfortunately it had dropped down through the rubbish, so I had to stand outside the station picking my way through the rubbish bin to retrieve my ticket. Not my finest moment.
  • A couple of weeks ago, at Paddington station, I was just about to go through the ticket barriers to catch a train to Bath when I realised that I couldn’t find my ticket. I retraced my steps and found it in the Costa Coffee shop, on the floor, slid under the stand where you get milk, with just a tiny corner sticking out. If it had slid another inch under I’d have never found it – how lucky was that!
  • Last week, at Holloway Road tube station, I got stuck in these ticket barriers:

Tube station ticket barrier

It turns out you can’t just follow the person in front right through without waiting for the barrier to close and reopen again. I don’t want to talk about it.

Thing Number 2 – NaNoWriMo

Yes, in November I did NaNoWriMo – I think everyone knows what that is, but just in case, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where you aim to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I did it once before. This time I didn’t quite reach the 50K words, I did around 42K, but I was really happy with what I achieved. I needed to do quite a bit of reading research for this which I should really have completed before November, but didn’t, so the majority of my November NaNo time was spent reading rather than writing. Within the 42K words, I have the framework for the whole thing, I got to the end of the story, and there are lots of places throughout where it says things like “Write this bit here”, “Expand this bit”, “Write about that here”. So the bones of it are all there, and I’m happy with that.

Thing Number 3 – Getting Crafty

A while back, a work colleague announced that she was organising a Christmas craft fair for early December, and asked if anyone would like a stall. Well of course I jumped at the chance, what a great opportunity to show off my crafts! Something was niggling at me though and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then it dawned on me – I don’t actually do any crafts (incidentally, I’m also really excited about the opportunity I have coming up to show off my motorcycle stunt skills…wait…oh crap).

So I bought a selection of cheap unfinished plain little wooden and card boxes, and some wooden hanging leaves, and decorated them with paint, pressed flowers, and beer bottle caps. Here was my finished stall from last Saturday:

craft stall

Did I make my fortune? No. Did I have fun? Absolutely – I really enjoyed decorating the boxes, this was mostly done over November, which you’ll remember was also the month I was trying to write a novel. I really don’t have any artistic/crafty type talent, but I was pleased I managed to do SOMETHING to put on the stall.

EDIT: Neil just reminded me of the other bit to the craft stall story, not sure how I forgot this bit – soon after I had set it up all lovely (as above), and the craft fair was well underway, I decided to quickly nip over to another stall, in doing so I tripped over the tablecloth on my stall and dragged it, along with ALL the boxes, onto the floor, and I fell amongst it all. There was a big crash. I don’t want to talk about it.

What about you? Do you ever volunteer to do something and then realise it was a mistake? Do you save beer bottle caps in case they come in handy some day? Do you ever get stuck in ticket barriers?

 

Is Your Attention Span in Need of Attention?

I was commenting to someone recently about how short my attention span is, and how consequently I often have trouble following the plot of movies if they’re any more complicated than a rom-com. My mind wanders off somewhere else, and then…er…then…what was I saying? Something about cats was it? Or milk, yes I need to buy some milk. No, movies! Anyway, I decided to create a little comic strip to illustrate what it’s like to watch a movie with me, so that you can see what poor Neil has to put up with (you’ll probably need to click on the picture to make it bigger so that you can read it) –

Vanessa comic strip

Anyone else have this same trouble?

By contrast, here is a really cool video of somebody who has a super long attention span. In 1977, At the age of 18, this guy video’d himself interviewing his older future self, and then waited 38 years to film his older self replying. It’s really worth watching, very poignant in places. It’s 3mins 58secs long.

How’s your attention span? …Hello? You still there?

Line in a Rock

Every man, woman, and child, of every race, that ever lived,
Every elephant and rat and donkey and sheep,
Every horse that won, and the ones that didn’t,
Every theatre that was ever built,
And every stage that was ever danced on,
Every bed that bore witness to conception,
Every phone that carried news; joyous, tragic, mundane,
Every great work of art,
Displayed in every gallery around the world,
Every mirror that helped us decide how we should feel about ourselves,
Because of every magazine that told us how we should look,
Or how we should live, and feel,
Every flower and blade of grass,
Every photograph that helped us remember; people, places, adventures,
Every book that was devoured,
Every hand that was held,
And every shoulder that was cried on,
Every traffic light that stopped us, or let us through,
Every road that was ever built,
And walked on by every shoe,
And driven on by every car,
Every hospital that healed, and didn’t,
Every curtain that closed out the light,
From every window in every house,
Every swing that carried laughing children,
Every school,
Every courtroom,
Every church,
Everything,
Will one day all just be,
Another line in a rock.

Vanessa-Jane Chapman, 2015

Rock

Wordless Wednesday (Assuming words within a picture don’t count…or words within a heading)

To listen

Comments are closed for today’s post because, you know, it’s Wordless Wednesday. Oh these words? No these words don’t count. Or these. Or these.