I frequently run competitions on this blog – I get offered a lot of stuff which my family really doesn’t need, and I feel it’s only fair to share it with other people. I love it when I get emails from the winners, telling me how happy they are.
This week I put up a lovely competition to win a hamper of Belgian chocolate. That’s really all there is to it. I put the closing date – next Tuesday – but, and this apparently was my fatal error, I didn’t put a closing TIME.
The reason I found this out was because a lady from the Advertising Standards Authority emailed me via the blog to tell me a complaint had been made against me. ‘The complaint queried the fact that the time of day for closing the competition was not stated and that there was no way of establishing who had won. In order to respond to this query, I would need you to confirm the time of day that the competition closed.’
Now, as a journalist and Editor, I’ve dealt with the ASA on numerous occasions over the years, often about TV adverts costing millions of pounds. I’ve always found them very reasonable. So I decided to pick up the phone to speak to them, and got straight through to the lady who had emailed me.
She was very nice, I told her I ALWAYS publish the names of my winners and that I would of course put the closing time in the blog post, and she told me that she would close the case. I sent a link to the updated post to confirm I had put the closing time. I then sent another email, checking that they had received that one. No reply. I half thought about ringing her again to check if she’d received it, but frankly, I was too busy.
This evening, a full 24 hours later, just as I was about to leave the office, I received an email, which informed me that the ASA ‘welcome the change to the details of the competition. On this basis we’ll close our file.’ So far, so good.
But what the email also said, was this: ‘Your company name, the industry sector and the medium in which the ad appeared will appear on 1 May in a list with other advertisers that have co-operated in resolving complaints.’
Leaving aside, for a minute, that it wasn’t actually an ad (it was a competition, with a no-follow link!), in other words, even though I rang the ASA in response to the complaint immediately, and resolved the complaint almost immediately (ie, as soon as I’d put the phone down), and even though the file has been closed, they are going to publish the name of my blog on their list.
I honestly don’t know what I think about this, except to say I feel a bit bullied.
The ASA prides itself on being ‘legal, decent, honest, truthful.’ Which is admirable. But is it really necessary to publish details of a complaint against a blogger because they didn’t put a closing time on a competition? Or is that just a way of justifying time spent dealing with a complaint?
To the person who thought it was funny/more exciting/whatever to complain to the ASA rather than sending me a message via my blog to point out I hadn’t put a closing time on my competition, I don’t know what to say, other that it was an incredibly spiteful and petty thing to do. I hope they’re not still reading my blog, or following me on twitter. I hope they get a life sometime soon.
I will be complaining to the ASA about the fact they’re putting my name on a ‘list’, but apparently that process takes 21 days, by which time the list will have been published.
So in the interests of being legal, decent, honest and truthful, I’m putting this in the public domain.
*Update 22/4/13: Following some email exchanges with the ASA today I have been told that a) they consider the time omission to be a ‘minor technical breach’; b) that blogs DO NOT fall in their remit, but prize promotions do, hence their interest and c) that because the process has already begun (I’m guessing they mean the decision to put my blog name on the list) they cannot STOP it. Even though it doesn’t appear until May.
As the saying goes, who puts the butterfly upon a wheel?