The UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”) has introduced changes to the provisions of its advertising code which deal with the running of sales promotions, including prize promotions. The full regulatory statement explaining and setting out the changes is here. The amendments to Chapter 8 of the CAP Code came into force on 1 May 2015. The main aim of the changes was to increase consistency with European legislation.

Key Changes

The changes generally render the existing rules more flexible, in particular:

  • permitting promotions with limited availability which are likely to be in high demand, provided enough detail and information are given to enable the consumer to decide whether to participate;
  • relaxing a general requirement which applied to promotions to children, such that they no longer need a closing date in every case (although in most cases closing dates will remain necessary for such promotions);
  • relaxing the previously absolute requirement that promoters avoid complex rules (instead it is now rules that are “too complex to be understood” that must be avoided).

On the other hand, there are a few aspects of the new rules which increase the restrictions on promoters, in particular including an absolute requirement (based on the CJEU judgment in Purely Creative v OFT) that participants in instant win promotions must incur no cost in claiming their prizes.

Assessment

The changes are more fine-tuning than major changes of substance. But in an area which is regulated in considerable detail in the UK it is important for promoters to ensure they work off the latest version of the rules. CAP has promised guidance on various aspects of the new rules “in due course”.

The area of prize promotion regulation varies very considerably between jurisdictions (including within the EU, where there is only a low level of harmonisation). For more detail see DLA Piper’s Prize Promotions Handbook, here.

In other UK advertising news…

Separately, but also with effect from 1 May, the ASA (the UK body which enforces the CAP Code) announced it will limit its investigations to three points of complaint. The ASA has always been at liberty to not investigate if there are no grounds but will now apply a “proportionate limit” to points of complaint and focus on issues likely to cause detriment or harm. It will of course be important for complainants to be pithy and focus on their three big points.

This development is part of the ASA’s response to the significant increase in complaints it has received over the last year which has stretched its limited resources. Another part of this strategy has been the ASA’s publication of new prioritisation principles, intended to enable it better to prioritise its allocation of resources to cases.