During the year, the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman has been contacted by a number of consumers asking if a company is allowed to organise a draw or a competition in which only those consumers who have purchased the product can take part. The provisions on promotional games were amended a few years ago to permit the organisation of promotional games only to consumers who purchased the product.
Promotional games refer to draws, competitions for the public and games associated with products. The provisions on promotional games in the Consumer Protection Act were amended in summer 2011. Under the new provision, a company may offer promotional games only for consumers who are purchasing a product, or making a purchase offer on it.
"Previously when organising promotional games, companies had to ensure that consumers could also take part without purchasing the product. This rule has been well ingrained in the consumers' minds, and they still tend to report to us any campaigns associated with an obligation to buy a product. This is why it is necessary to remind the consumers of the reformed rules and the fact that today, an obligation to buy is allowed in promotional games”, says Lawyer Mika Hakamäki from the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority.
Promotional games supervised by the Consumer Ombudsman
The scope of the Finnish Consumer Protection Act covers both promotional games in which consumers can participate free of charge and promotional games that require participants to purchase the marketed commodity or make a purchase offer on it. In other respects, the requirements applicable to promotional games have remained the same, and compliance with them is supervised by the Consumer Ombudsman.
The amended provisions continue to prohibit promotional games that are emphasised over the actual product. The rules of the draw must also be clear, and they must be kept clearly visible. If companies target their promotional games at children, they must be mindful of the special position of minors.
The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman currently has one case relevant to promotional games pending in the Market Court. This case is about a promotional game related to kitchen paper, which featured an exceptionally large main prize and exceptionally small probability of winning it. The Consumer Ombudsman demands that the Market Court order the company in question in the future to desist from giving an erroneous impression that the consumer can win the main prize in a promotional game, even if winning is extremely unlikely. In addition, the case is about the dominating role of the draw at the cost of the product.
Promotional Games. Guidelines for Consumer Protection, Consumer Ombudsman, Finland 2011.
Consumer Ombudsman takes a promotional game campaign to the Market Court. Press release, 21 May 2013.
Lotteries with a charge for participation run to promote a charitable or other non-profit activity are supervised by the Finnish National Police Board, and their organisation is subject to permission with certain exceptions laid down in the Finnish Lotteries Act.