How to complain to the ASA

Unfortunately, in the world of comping, things don’t always run smoothly. There are dodgy promoters, dodgy compers and even dodgy prizes! With social media so widely used, complaining is easier and more effective than it used to be. In most cases, you can contact promoters on Twitter or Facebook, and as a result complaints are usually dealt with swiftly for fear of a PR disaster. Most promoters will act on a polite message or tweet, and work to get things fixed.

In some cases though, promoters can be rather stubborn, and you might decide to submit a formal complaint to the ASA if you think a competition or prize draw has been unfairly run. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) makes sure all advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful.  All prize promotions must comply with the British Code of Advertising Practice (the CAP Code). If you believe a promotion or advertisement is in breach of the CAP Code, you can complain.

Don’t worry that complaining will affect your chance of winning with a certain promoter. When you complain, your name will NOT usually be disclosed to the promoter – unless for example, you’re chasing a missing prize in which case the promoter will need to know who you are. It may take time to submit your complaint, but in many cases the ASA involvement or published ruling will be a kick up the arse for the promoter or agency involved, who will hopefully conduct their promotions in a fairer manner in future!

Most people aren’t actually aware of what you can complain about – here are a few suggestions, and the relevant parts of the CAP Code (read section 8 of the code for further details):

The promoter won’t tell me who won, even if I ask in a private message

CAP Code 8.28.5: Promoters must either publish or make available on request the name and county of major prizewinners and, if applicable, their winning entries. 

After rushing to get my entry in, the promoter extended the closing date

CAP Code 8.17.4e: 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.

I missed out on a prize because the promoter said I had 24 hours to claim it

CAP Code 8.22: Promoters must not claim that consumers must respond by a specified date or within a specified time if they need not.

There are no T&Cs on the competition tweet or Facebook post

CAP Code 8.28: Participants must be able to retain conditions or easily access them throughout the promotion.

I don’t think the winner was chosen at random

CAP Code 8.24: Promoters of prize draws must 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, by an independent person, or under the supervision of an independent person.

There are exceptions of course – for example, if you win gig tickets you would have to respond quickly to claim them, or a closing date might be extended due to technical difficulties with an app. But in most cases the promoter should have a very good reason to breach the Code – even on Twitter every competition tweet should include a link to T&Cs. You might find a link to the Sales Promotions section of the CAP Code useful if you’re communicating with a promoter who doesn’t know the rules.

A few other examples of competition related complaints include:

  • A winner who didn’t comply with the T&Cs 
  • A ‘fake’ winner in a prize promotion, or a winner who works for the promoter
  • A competition to win a ‘family holiday’ which, when you check the T&Cs, can’t be taken during school holidays (see Family holiday prizes… in term time?)
  • A scam Facebook page giving away thousands of iPads
  • A prize that hasn’t showed up after 28 days (see How to chase a missing prize)
  • A voting competition where the winner cheated by purchasing or exchanging fake votes online
  • A Facebook competition stating the ‘most creative’ entry will win, but the promoter then puts it to a public vote

These are just a few examples of complaints. There are many reasons for someone to complain to the ASA – and we don’t do it enough. Every dodgy comp or promoter we complain about is a reason for the ASA and CAP to take a long hard look at how badly a lot of competitions and prize draws are conducted in the UK – especially on social media.

Make a complaint to the ASA

How to complain

First of all, collect everything you can to help the ASA with their investigation – you can upload file attachments to the complaint form. The earlier you make a complaint, the more likely it is that the ASA can act while the prize promotion is still live – be sure to submit your complaint within three months of the advertising appearing.

  • Printed materials – take a photo or scan the entry form, magazine advert, etc.
  • Web addresses/URLs for the promotion or T&Cs – click in your browser address bar to select the web address and copy it. To find the link to a tweet or Facebook post click the ‘timestamp’ under the post (eg. 4 hrs or Oct 24) to open in a new window, then copy the link from your browser bar.
  • Screenshots – take screenshots of promotional material and T&Cs in case the promoter changes the information on their website or social media pages. 
  • Text – copy and paste the original details/T&Cs of the promotion into a text file and save it.

Submit your complaint on the Make a Complaint page at www.asa.org.uk.

  1. Select Are you complaining as a member of the public.
  2. Complete your contact details
  3. Choose the type of promotion/advertisement you’re complaining about. For compers, possible categories could be Online > Within a company’s own, or other type of website (which covers Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) or Packaging
  4. Upload up to three files by clicking Choose file, browse for your screenshots/scans then click Upload. Finally, add in a website link for the promotion if it’s still available.
  5. Say where and when you saw the promotion, who the advertiser is, and the product being advertised (the product is the competition or prize draw).
  6. Add a detailed description of your complaint. You might want to type your complaint in Word or a Notes file first, and save a copy for reference – then copy and paste it on the website.

You can click on any step to go back and edit before clicking Submit.

What happens next

When the ASA receives your submission, they will let you know if they will take up your complaint. The ASA may be able to resolve the complaint quickly by contacting the promoter, rather than conducting a formal investigation – for example, they could chase up an undelivered prize. Formal investigations take longer. The advertiser will be contacted and asked to provide evidence, the ASA Council will decide whether or not the CAP Code has been breached, and a ruling of ‘Upheld’ (the ASA agrees with your complaint) or ‘Not Upheld’ (the ASA disagrees) will be published on the ASA website. If the complaint is ‘Not Upheld’ no further action is taken. 

If you’re not happy with the ASA ruling, there is an Independent Review Procedure that allows complainants and advertisers to request a review within 21 days of the ASA decision.

Rulings are published on the ASA website every week and in some cases the national press have picked up on stories of promotions gone bad If the rules have been breached, the advertisement must be changed or withdrawn. This rarely occurs with prize promotions as by the time an investigation is conducted, the promotion is usually over. Persistent offenders may be referred to Trading Standards or Ofcom for further action.

And finally…

If you do have a problem with a prize promotion, do your best to sort it out directly via email or social media. A polite Facebook post or message can sometimes be enough for a promoter to realise they’ve made a mistake and fix it – and hopefully they won’t make that mistake again! Most promoters and agencies don’t want the bad publicity of an ASA ruling against them, but if you’ve done all you can with no luck then don’t be afraid to register a formal complaint with the ASA – and let me know how you get on!

Further reading:

Author: Di

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  • Louise

    Great info, I had a problem, but only had certain screenshots to rely on, not the url’s or anything. I feel like a vigilante but I think everybody should put the heat on promoters, we all know who offenders are on twitter every week for example. It would be nice for everyone to start on a level playing field.

  • Neill Johnstone

    Thanks for this! Just posted my first complaint about a promoter. Wasn’t going to bother as it looked like they had gone out of business (all online activity had ceased and the website went ofline) but they’re back up and running this week – and still not replying to me!

  • Emma Groves

    Fantastic post, I have just made a complaint about a comp not being run fairly and rules not being clear after advising the company they had not followed the asa guidelines they stopped replying so, I have reported it. I think they thought I was bluffing but they dont know me very well 🙂

  • @kazzakoo

    Thanks for the post. I had a prize that I won in December for tickets to an event in February. I never got the tickets or anything else so I followed your instructions. I made a complaint and the ASA emailed to say that the company advertising the competition and prize had broken the code and they had advised the company of this. I called and queried what was happening about the prize and they said they don’t do that and my best bet was to contact the company again. I did and had a reply back saying that they have removed the advert from December from Facebook and that legally, they don’t need to do anything else. Is this true? Is there any other way of getting the company to send me an equivalent prize to the one I won and have never received?

  • Sally Rowland

    Thanks for this Di, I have just made my first ASA complaint and this was very handy.

  • Claire Noke

    Hi Di, any advice would be appreciated…. I received an email from Utilita saying id won a pair of Rayban Aviator sunglasses and could I send an email with my details for my prize to be sent out within 5 days. I did this straight away. They have now sent me an email saying its an error. I haven’t won. I’m furious! and upset. Can I push this further? Should I be awarded my prize? the email was addressed to me – Thanks Claire x

  • I saw your Facebook post earlier Claire and see they’re sending you a small gift as an apology. I’m presuming this was an error where the same ‘winning’ email was sent to all entrants, or was it just to you? This happens quite often and in many cases a ‘computer error’ or a staff error is blamed and the promoter can usually get away with it, and maybe send out an apologetic discount code to everyone. It’s very disappointing for you though.