No more NPN route: a rule change for purchase-necessary promotions in NI

If you love on-pack promotions, then you’ll certainly be used to seeing that familiar phrase ‘NPN in NI’ (No Purchase Necessary for Northern Ireland residents) on the packaging. But that won’t be the case for much longer, as a change to the Law means that a UK promoter no longer has to offer a ‘free entry’ option to Northern Ireland for a chance-based promotion such as a prize draw or instant win.

Prior to 2005, UK Gambling Law stated that there had to be an element of skill to decide the winner if a product purchase was required to enter a prize promotion. This skill element was usually a judged tiebreaker (or slogan), and most compers loved these challenges because the general public wouldn’t generally bother taking part due to the effort involved. It was much easier to win a purchase-necessary promotion back then, especially if you were good with rhymes and wordplay!

But the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005 changed all that – promoters could launch an instant win or a prize draw in Great Britain that required a product purchase, with winners chosen at random and no skill element at all. The only requirement was that the price of the product was not increased to cover the costs of running the promotion.

The Gambling Act 2005 also considers that price of a stamp, a standard phone call or standard rate text message is not a purchase, which is why it’s acceptable for the ‘FREE’ entry route for prize draws run by companies like ITV, Channel 5 and Omaze to be via a stamped postcard, even though a 2nd class stamp now costs 47p more than when the Law was passed in 2005!

However, although these big changes were made to the Law in England, Scotland and Wales, there were no changes to Northern Irish Law – and buying a product to enter a prize draw remained an ‘illegal lottery’ until April 2022. Because of this, promoters either limited their prize draws to GB residents – or offered a “no purchase necessary” entry route for Northern Irish entrants, with entry usually by post or email.

2022 updates to NI Law

On 26 April 2022, the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 was passed, an update to the previous 1985 Northern Ireland Order. The update finally brings Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK, allowing purchase-necessary prize draws and instant wins – as long as the price of a promotional product is not increased to cover the cost of running the prize promotion.

It may take a while for us to notice this change, as most current promotions were planned long before the Law change. In the long term it should simplify things for promoters, who will no longer have to restrict their instant wins and prize draws to GB residents – and won’t need to spend time planning a ‘no purchase necessary’ alternative entry route to add to the terms and conditions.

For Northern Irish residents though, there’s good news and bad news. It’s good news for the promotions on cheap products like crisps and chocolate bars, where the NPN route has usually been restrictive on the number of entries allowed. But they will also lose the benefit of a low cost entry route for a prize draw or instant win on expensive qualifiers such as alcohol.

Are you a Northern Irish comper? Have you had much success with your NPN entries? What do you think about the rule change?

What are the rules in the Republic of Ireland?

Have you ever wondered why some promotions have the NPN route for NI – and then also, a skill question for ROI residents?

In ROI, purchase-necessary promotions are considered lotteries, and are subject to the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019. For a purchase-necessary promotion where the winners are chosen at random, if the total prize value is less than €2500 then no lottery permit is required and entry will be by the same method as GB residents. Once the prize value hits €2500, it gets more complicated – between €2500 and €5000 value requires a lottery permit – but that permit is only valid in a specified district of Ireland. And if the prize value is over €5000, the Law states that at least 25% of the proceeds must go to charity – which simply isn’t a feasible option for most supermarket brands!

These complex rules explains why most promoters don’t open up UK prize draws and instant wins to ROI entrants. Some do introduce a skill element to their promotion just for ROI – if the question requires a certain level of skill or knowledge then the promotion is no longer classed as a lottery, and the promoter won’t require a permit. Many UK ‘raffle websites’ controversially use a similar loophole in the Gambling Act and add a skill question to their paid entry promotions to avoid regulation.

You may well have spotted the occasional purchase necessary promotion with three different entry routes for GB, ROI and NI, for example the Walkers Easyjet promotion has a postal NPN route for NI, and an anagram to solve for ROI. Hopefully the change in NI Law will result in simpler T&Cs in future!


Want to know more about purchase-necessary competitions? Check out these posts:

1 Response

  1. Vanessa says:

    It’s only fair that this has been changed. I’ve taken advantage of NPN entries for Northern Ireland many times, but I’m pleased to see NI joining the 21st century in regards to gambling laws/comping. I will miss the free SMS entry to some of the Tesco comps though, as I’ve had some success with them!

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