Read the terms and conditions, it could be your unlucky day!

20th March 2024

Parker-Grennan v Camelot UK Lotteries Limited ([2024] EWCA Civ 185) is a recent case which allowed the Court of Appeal the opportunity to comment on how contractual terms and conditions may be accepted online. When signing up for an online National Lottery account, Ms Parker-Grennan confirmed her acceptance of Camelot’s terms and conditions by ticking the tick-box provided on Camelot’s website. It is not clear whether Ms Parker-Grennan had read those terms and conditions, however, it is clear that she did not understand the impact of the terms in relation to the functioning of Camelot’s instant win games (IWG), as can be seen from the facts of the case. Nonetheless, Ms Parker-Grennan confirmed her acceptance of Camelot’s terms by ticking the tick-box when opening her online account.

6 years later, Ms Parker-Grennan purchased a £5.00 ticket to play Camelot’s online interactive instant win game (IWG), which would be won by successfully matching a number from the numbers randomly allocated to Ms Parker-Grennan’s ticket with the same number in the IWG. The prizes for doing so range from £5.00 to £1Million. A player can only win one prize per IWG played. The outcome of the IWG is led by a computer program which determines whether a player has won a prize, and the amount of that prize, at the time a player purchases its IWG ticket online. However, Camelot’s IWG allows players to either instantly see if they have matched one of their allocated numbers with a number in the IWG, and subsequently won a prize, or the player may elect to enable animations which then requires the player to select the animations they wish to remove to reveal the numbers behind the animations in the IWG to reveal if they have won a prize. This is all explained in Camelot’s terms and conditions that Ms Parker-Grennan accepted when opening her online account.

In this case, Ms Parker-Grennan agreed to play Camelot’s IWG and opted to enable animations. By selecting to remove the animations in the IWG to reveal any matching numbers, Ms Parker-Grennan quickly matched two numbers warranting a £10.00 prize. Ms Parker-Grennan continued to remove animations and the same IWG revealed further matching numbers that appeared to warrant a prize of £1Million. On completing the IWG by removing all animations and selecting “Finish”, only the £10.00 prize was confirmed to have been won and no notification confirmed that £1Million had been won. Ms Parker-Grennan telephoned Camelot to confirm that she had won two prizes on the IWG and sought to claim the £1Million prize. Upon review, Camelot found a glitch in their IWG system which caused the IWG to reveal a false prize of £1Million to Ms Parker-Grennan, amongst others who played the IWG before the glitch was fixed. At the point Ms Parker-Grennan agreed to play, her IWG was predetermined to award a prize of £10.00 and Camelot’s IWG system could evidence that. Ms Parker-Grennan had not won a further £1Million, regardless of what the IWG had revealed. Camelot explained this to Ms Parker-Grennan and referred her to the terms and conditions which explained how the IWG is determined.

Ms Parker-Grennan advanced the argument that she did not accept the terms and conditions and claimed that Camelot owed her a further £1Million prize.

The Court of Appeal held that by clicking the tick-box upon opening her online account, Ms Parker-Grennan had accepted Camelot’s terms and conditions and was not entitled to the £1Million prize claimed. The Court stated that “the question is not whether the trader has done everything in its power to try to make the other contracting party read the terms. One cannot force someone to read the terms and conditions if they cannot be troubled to do so. The trader only needs to take reasonable steps to bring the terms and conditions to their attention”. By having given Ms Parker-Grennan the opportunity to read the IWG terms and conditions at the point of her agreeing to play the IWG and purchasing her £5.00 ticket, Camelot had taken such reasonable steps. The Court of Appeal did however add that sign-posting of more onerous and unusual terms may be required in relevant circumstances, but Camelot’s terms in this case were neither onerous nor unusual.

This case serves as an important reminder not to simply tick the box online that confirms you have understood and accept the terms and conditions. You should read and understand the terms you are confirming acceptance of. It could be the difference between £10.00 and £1Million.

There is also an important lesson for those preparing terms and conditions, as they need to be carefully drafted and sufficiently brought to attention. If any onerous or unusual terms are not appropriately sign-posted, they may be deemed not to have been accepted.

Do not hesitate to contact our Dispute Resolution team on 0161 832 3434 or for more information.

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