Last year, the FTC came up with a new strategy in its war against unlawful telemarketing — the agency sponsored a contest in which it invited contestants to submit their best solutions to block robocalls. After reviewing almost 800 entries, the FTC announced the winners in April. If the winning solutions get implemented, that could mean good news for consumers. But not everyone is happy. According to The Wall Street Journal, one of the entrants who didn’t win is threatening to sue the FTC.
The entrant first asked the FTC for his entry’s grade, but the Commission declined to provide it. Then, he filed a FOIA request for the scores of all entries. The FTC provided score sheets for the seven finalists, but the entrant wasn't among the finalists. Then, the entrant tried to get more information from one of the judges. When that didn’t work, he filed a complaint with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And now, he’s considering a lawsuit.
Contests can be a great way for companies to get creative ideas. But entrants get protective of their entries, and frequently complain (and sometimes threaten legal action) if they lose. Indeed, my dog recently won Best in Show in Kelley Drye DC's first Take Your Dog to Work Day. Rest assured that, if she hadn't, I would have sued the office managing partner.
Before you run a contest, take some time to think about how things can go wrong, and make sure you have provisions in the rules to protect your company. But even that may not stop complaints from disgruntled entrants. In those cases, your legal, marketing, and PR teams should work together to find the best way to make the problem go away as quietly as possible.