Running a social media “competition” within the UK? Here are some rules to be aware of - Kuits Solicitors Manchester
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Running a social media “competition” within the UK? Here are some rules to be aware of

Running a social media “competition” within the UK? Here are some rules to be aware of

16th September 2021 - Published by Kuits Commercial team

Online competitions and giveaways are an increasingly popular method of promotional marketing. We urge all business, including influencers and brands, who use such strategies to take legal advice before implementing them into their business to avoid their activities being considered unlawful lotteries.

With the recent investigation into fashion brand, Pretty Little Thing’s ‘Valentines Giveaway’ on Instagram, we have outlined below the promotional marketing rules imposed on businesses by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

So, where did Pretty Little Thing go wrong?

Fashion brand, Pretty Little Thing (PLT) recently came under fire when they held a ‘Valentines Giveaway’ on Instagram. The post specified that to win the prize bundle:

“All you have to do to enter is”…“Double Tap & Save this post”, “Tag your best Galentines”, “Comment [heart emoji] on ANY post”, “BONUS: Share on your story”, “Enter as many times as you want”, “Must be following @prettylittlething to enter” and “Ends 11:59pm GMT February 14th”.

PLT was criticised for the fact that it would not be able to track which entrants had fulfilled the entry criteria and were challenged over whether the promotion was administered fairly. PLT objected to this on the basis that it used an independent third-party website which produced a range of data such as likes, comments and hashtags from the Instagram post. It also said that its computer program selected a winner at random and it took additional steps to check the winner’s eligibility by manually checking whether all entry requirements had been satisfied before awarding the prize. An example of a manual verification step taken by the brand was to ask the entrant to screenshot their Instagram story which shared PLT’s original promotional post from their archives.

The ASA’s judgment of PLT’s strategies concluded that its promotion had not been administered fairly and breached the following rules of the ASA CAP (Committees of Advertising Practice) Non-Broadcast Code (the Code) in particular:

  • to avoid causing unnecessary disappointment (rule 8.2); and
  • to ensure that prizes are awarded in accordance with the laws of chance and, unless winners are selected by a computer process that produces verifiably random results, selected by an independent person, or under the supervision of an independent person (rule 8.24).

Firstly, it was considered that PLT would be unable to verify before the winner was chosen whether they had commented a ‘heart emoji’ on any post and saved the post. This means that the chosen winner may not have satisfied all entry criteria, leading to unnecessary disappointment if the prize must be re-drawn.

The ASA also considered that the ‘bonus’ entry of sharing the promotional Instagram post to the participant’s own story would likely cause the participant to believe or expect that they had increased their chances of winning. Given PLT would be unable to verify whether entrants qualified for this ‘bonus’ entry before the winner was drawn, or if it was shared onto the story of a private Instagram account, the entrant was not in fact increasing their chances of winning.

How you can avoid similar pitfalls

Social media prize draws have rapidly increased in popularity over recent years and when used effectively can increase a brand’s social media following. If you are considering running an online competition, it is essential to ensure that your competition entry criteria satisfy the rules under the Code. The Code can be accessed here.

Some easy ways to ensure you don’t fall foul of the rules are:

  • For each social media platform used for prize draws:
    • check what data can be extracted from the platform and used to verify a prize draw winner;
    • establish what computer processes can be used to check entry criteria has been satisfied and draw a winner; and
    • design your prize draws taking these matters into account.
  • Keep entry requirements simple – this makes it easier for entrants and also for you when choosing a winner!
  • Make the entry requirements clear – have key information such as the prize, entry criteria, opening and closing dates in the post itself or the description.
  • Have accompanying T&Cs linked in the post description. These terms should include the details required by the Code.

Get in touch with a Commercial lawyer today

If you would like advice or guidance to ensure that you remain legally compliant, please contact Associate Rebecca Bainbridge in our Commercial team on 0161 838 7986 or email

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