Can a closing date be changed?
Have you ever followed a link to enter a prize draw, only to discover that it’s closed early? Or entered a creative competition on the final day, then realise the closing date has been extended to the following month?
In the UK every prize promotion must follow the CAP Code. The Code states that ‘closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter make it necessary and either not to change the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms, or those who sought to participate within the original terms will not be disadvantaged by the change.’ (section 8.17.14e). Promoters must also avoid ‘causing unnecessary disappointment’ (section 8.2), which usually happens as a result of a closing date change.
If you’re wondering, unavoidable circumstances do not include a lack of entries (see the ASA ruling against Terra Plana) or a staff member going on holiday, so the winner can be announced before they go away! If there’s a technical error which prevents people from entering the prize promotion before the closing date, these circumstances could be considered ‘unavoidable’, but in most cases you can expect the ASA to uphold a complaint about an altered date.
When someone enters a prize draw or competition, they are agreeing to the terms and conditions – including the closing date. These T&Cs should not be changed. You might read in the terms that ‘we reserve the right to modify the competition at any time and for any reason’ – which might sound impressive, but it means nothing to the ASA (see their ruling against Money Supermarket).
It’s easy for an unhappy entrant to register a complaint with the ASA about a changed closing date. If they investigate, and publish a ruling on the ASA website, it could be damaging to a company’s reputation. In October Travel Republic extended a closing date, and the ASA ruling stated it was not unavoidable circumstances.
Promoters should take time to check their terms and conditions before publication, and consider any problems that could arise with the dates. If a prize promotion isn’t as popular as expected, there are lots of options to publicise it – I can feature it on SuperLucky, there are promoted Facebook posts and tweets, or simply add the competition to free listings sites like Loquax or The PrizeFinder!
Have you entered a competition where the closing date has changed? Did you complain to the promoter? Let me know in the comments!