The BBC investigate Automated Entry Services

On Monday evening there was a fascinating feature on competitions on Inside Out West. What makes this more interesting than the usual TV or radio features on comping is that it doesn’t just focus on the compers (the talented ladies of the Compers Mentis club), it’s an investigation into automated entry services such as Prize Draw Centre, who are charging people over £100 a year to enter competitions and prize draws on their behalf.

I blogged about the problems with Automated Entry Services here. They’re an incredibly lazy way to win prizes – and personally, I think they take all the fun out of our fabulous hobby! In fact, I feel a little insulted that on the BBC show, people using these services are referred to as ‘compers’ – they’re certainly not like the genuine compers I know, who enjoy the thrill of finding and entering comps themselves!

Along with Loquax, for a couple of years I have been making promoters aware of Automated Entries, encouraging them to use “automated/bulk entries and entries from third parties are not permitted” in their promotional terms and conditions. We have also suggested that it might also be a good idea to add a captcha, a tiebreaker question or to run the promotion so a Facebook log in is required.

On the TV show, Hayley Coggins from Elizabeth Shaw reveals that they have already spent £2,000 on weeding out automated entries from their competitions – in a single day they received 25,000 automated entries for a draw to win the enormous prize of… a hamper of chocolates.

Inside Out West also features an interview with Dave Gibson (Managing Director of Oxfordshire Press, publishers of Simply Prizes magazine & the Competition Club website amongst others). Dave also helps to run Prize Draw Centre, an Automated Entry Service – Dave is keen to point out to the BBC that Prize Draw Centre limit their entries to a maximum of 2000 names per draw. Well, that’s still a huge 2000 people who haven’t visited the promoter’s website and couldn’t care less about the promoter or prize. If it was me running that service, I certainly don’t think I’d have the nerve to mention it on TV!

People sometimes ask how Automated Entry Services differ to entering competitions via a website like www.theprizefinder.com. Well, compers using a competition listings site are CHOOSING the prize they want to win, VISITING the promoter’s website and completing their own details (yes, they might use their browser’s autofill function or Roboform to save time – but that’s not an ‘automated entry’!). These compers will see adverts, perhaps sign up to a mailing list, and become aware of the brand, magazine or store. In short, they are a real person, not a computer!

So, what’s the IPM‘s view of Automated Entry Services? Well, they actually have a Press Release due out any time now, which they have allowed me to quote here:

THE INSTITUTE OF PROMOTIONAL MARKETING
Automatic Entry Services

The Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) has become aware of a recent growth in the use of Automatic Entry services. These services, “the lazy persons way to winning prizes”, collect names and email addresses from consumers and then enter competitions and prize draws on their behalf.

The IPM regards these services as unfair, and does not endorse their use. Indeed, the Legal Advisory service of the IPM, recommends promoters to include an exclusion clause in any promotional Ts & Cs, prohibiting entries using these services. It is therefore possible that consumers are being entered unknowingly into promotions in which their entries will be ineligible. Increasingly, therefore their monetary investment will be eroded.

The IPM strongly advises promoters to seek the IPM’s advice on suitably worded exclusion clauses. It similarly recommends that consumers think twice before subscribing to such services.

For further advice and information, contact Edwin Mutton, Head of Compliance at edwinm@theipm.org.uk or phone him on 07801 045524.

If you feel passionately about Automated Entry Services, then do check T&Cs to ensure that your favourite promoters and websites are excluding them from their competitions – and if they’re not, then ask them politely if they might do so in future (you can find a template for contact on my blog here).

After all, if we can get rid of thousands of automated entries, then we might actually stand a chance of winning a prize – now wouldn’t that be nice?

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