Running a competition on your blog or website? Read this first

April 19, 2013

Vintage Coca-ColaI 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?


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  • nicci cowdell-murray April 26, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    omg , you cant believe some people!! just for not adding a closing date , its a joke!

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:44 am

      Hi Nicci – there was a closing date, it was just the time I forgot 🙁

  • Jennifer Howze April 24, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Adding my voice is. You’d hope that if the missing closing time was noticed by another blogger, they would operate in the spirit of the community, which is to say, they would have sent you a note saying “Hey, there’s no end time on your competition”. This seems less about correcting an error than an elaborate game of gotcha.

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:44 am

      It’s difficult not to feel suspicious, particularly as it wasn’t put on any ‘comper’ sites.

  • Jo April 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Oh My God. how utterly pointless what a time wasting and quite nasty thing to do. I use rafflecopter and on a couple of occasions have forgotten to update the close as I use the template.Luckily the ‘mean’ people didn’t see it, just the blogging friends who pointed out my mistake and emailed me. That is what I would have done.
    Thanks for sharing, but sorry you had to. x

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Thank you – and that’s exactly what I would have expected a normal person to do.

  • Emma in Bromley April 23, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I’m really shocked by this and hope it isn’t another blogger or someone doing this driven by jealousy or malice.
    If there is a closing date but no time – then surely that would indicate a closing time of the very end of that day!
    After reading your latest update, where the ASA don’t normally cover blogs – I’m surprised it has escalated so far within their association – this should have been nipped in the bud as soon as they recognised you were a blog.
    In positive light – I’ve never checked the list and it certainly wouldn’t be enough to put me off some of the brands that have appeared on it such as Apple. Spin this to your advantage – You will be able to say your blog is “as seen on an online ASA list of complied brands listed along side apple”

    I still can’t believe someone reported a blog to the ASA over something so trivial – it had better not have been another blogger as I can’t imagine they would have many blogger supporters and friends left after that!

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:46 am

      It’s difficult to understand but I have seen some comments by bloggers who think that I deserve what has happened 🙁

  • Liska (@NewMumOnline) April 22, 2013 at 12:28 am

    I agree with Mari. After 11:59 the date changes (similarly at the beginning end of the day) so in the absence of your saying “midday” then they had until midnight to enter. FFS.

    Seems like jealousy and tittle tattling and sadly I am seeing more and more of it, all over the shop.

    I hope the few people that way inclined, have read this post (AND the comments) AND the comments on the Brit Mums community so that they know that their peers abhor this behaviour.

    Yes, you aint big nor are you clever whoever you are!

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Thank you Liska for your support x

  • Alice Baillie April 21, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    What a twat… #thatisall

    • Alice Baillie April 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      as in the person that is reporting people not you Liz lol

      • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:46 am

        Lol – yes I knew what you meant 🙂

  • Donna@MummyCentral April 21, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    Who do bullies target? The weak (definitely not you) or those they’re jealous of. I’d say someone is a little green monster. Hard to find anything positive in such a petty attack. But you’ve fallen victim to someone who feels threatened and wants to knock you down a peg or two

  • Jenny Paulin April 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    FFS!!! Why would someone do this? Really winds me up how petty people can be (hugs) x

  • Laura Chora April 21, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I know how upset this whole thing has made you and I’m sorry that someone didn’t have the common decency to speak to you and be upfront. It’s shameful that a community that classes itself as supportive has members who don’t think twice before being petty and spiteful.

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Thank you my lovely x

  • Anya from Older Single Mum and The Healer April 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

    You’ve always been one of the decent, honest and truthful ones. You wouldn’t have been knowingly illegal. This says more about the person who dobbed you in, than it ever could about you. 🙂

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:47 am

      I think so too.

  • HPMcQ April 20, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    i do hope that whoever reported this, feels completely and utterly stupid and ashamed of their behaviour. how spiteful and petty x

  • Mari April 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I wonder if the person who reported you even realises how petty and stupid they are? Most likely not because in their sad world they are ‘right’ and they cannot see that after 11.59 the date changes. Pathetic and I’m so sorry to read this. Community breakdown

    • Liz Jarvis April 27, 2013 at 8:48 am

      It’s horrible to think it may have been someone from the ‘community’ but I honestly don’t know what else to think 🙁

  • Domestic Goddesque April 20, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Golly, how awful for you.Would it not have been easier for the person to get in touch with you directly with their query about the finish time, rather than go to the ASA? Such a dreadful and unnecessary experience for you could easily have been avoided with a little sensitivity. But at least you did the good and honourable thing by sharing the situation: hopefully your experience will prevent others having to go through this.

  • Crystal Jigsaw April 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Oh for heaven’s sake, some people need to get a life. Bitterness seeps through in their actions, it’s pretty pathetic really.

    I’ve never run a ‘proper’ comp on my blog and wouldn’t know where to start – I’ve done a couple of book giveaways but they’ve been my own so I assume they don’t count? – but does this mean that all bloggers who run comps on their blogs are now being subject to someone thinking they’re the “competition police” ? God, blogging is becoming a chore rather than an enjoyable pastime.

    So sorry to hear you’ve been through this.
    CJ x

  • Jayne April 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    This is happening more and more in the blogging world lately and what was once a supportive community is now becoming a place of bullying and secrecy. I’m totally disgusted that someone would do this to you. Not cool.

  • Mammasaurus April 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    It saddens me that when someone spots an innocent mistake they don’t just have the decency to do the right thing and email you to point it out. Sorry to hear you have had to go through all this x

  • Chris at Thinly Spread April 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I’m stunned Liz, what a horrible thing to have happened! I can’t believe that people have so much time on their hands that they can find time to be so spiteful. I’m so sorry!

  • Carolin April 20, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Wow, just wow. I can’t believe people are like that. Sounds like bullying to me, but I agree. Who reads ASA lists? Someone with a very sad or no life. Thanks for highlighting this issue though. It will help a lot of us bloggers x

  • Darren cox April 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Eek what a pointless thing to do, some people are unbelievable!! Running a few comps at moment, might be the last unless the PRs run them for me!

  • joceejo April 20, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Honestly – with everything else going on in the world, why would someone even bother to report that … how did they even notice in the first place?! I wouldn’t worry about appearing on a list … no-one is going to see it … or care anyway!!

  • Ramblings Of A Suburban Mummy April 20, 2013 at 8:11 am

    I think competitions can be a lot more trouble than they are worth and I still don’t understand why the complainant didn’t just let you know the closing time was missing!

  • love being a mummy April 19, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    I am actually appalled!! If put a closing day with no time its bloody obvious that its up to 11.59pm!!
    Someone REALLY wanted the chocolates!!

  • Antonia April 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Quite frankly, that puts me off ever running a comp. Not worth the stress.

  • Rachael (Tales from the Village) April 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Sigh. Seriously, some people have nothing better to do. And hey, all publicity is good publicity. You’ll hopefully get some new readers from the link on the ASA page 😉

  • Kate, WitWitWoo April 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Wow … people have THAT much spare time on their hands?? Glad you shared this …. all rather ridiculous!

  • Alison April 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    That is really mean. It makes me worry about hosting competitions on my own blog. Surely the right approach was to just contact you first?

  • anna April 19, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    oh dear! That doesn’t sound too good. People can be quite petty. I understand making complaint when its a big company and they are not sending out the prize or whatever else, but for something so small as not putting the closing time on – they surely could have just messaged you and you would have put it on, or tbh if the time is not there would you not just presume it closes at midnight of that day?? I enter loads of comps and thats what I tend to presume if no end time.
    I have my first competition on my blog at the moment! so hope it goes smoothly and dont get any trouble from anyone!

  • Emma T April 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Blooming heck. It seems people just go running off to authorities without pointing it out to the person running the competition in the first instance. Ridiculous. And also pathetic about the list – I mean, seriously. Absurd when you corrected it straight away and contacted them to tell them it had been done.

    Now off to go and check mine. I’ve used Rafflecopter, so I’m hoping the countdown is sufficient, as I couldn’t state a specific time for it to end given it was the free version I’m using.

    I’m a pretty serious comper, but for something run on a blog I’d not class that as a big brand running something, or needing to check that any competition I was entering was full-filling all their obligations. Whoever reported it obviously has no life.

    (now off to check my blog!)

    • Charlie Hughes April 21, 2013 at 7:49 am

      Wow, seems really OTT to me ! Poor you. I was recommended to use Rafflecopter from the beginning even if running competitions on Facebook. As has been said previously because it has a counter it’s clear when the competition ends. I’m just glad that’s the route I’ve taken. Facebook are apparently coming down harder on people who also do the “Like & Share” competitions on their FB Pages too so it’s worth considering Rafflecopter if others don’t already. I really feel for you and think it’s sad that you have been targeted in this way. What happened to supporting each other and caring enough to point something out with that person first. Sending you a big hug xx

  • Camilla April 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Out of interest were you using Rafflecopter? This actually has a count down on it as to when the competition ends!

  • Kara Guppy April 19, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I never realised that some people can be so spiteful. I adore running competitions as it is lovely to make someone’s day, but I also fell foul of something similar but thankfully I was covered by my Terms and conditions!
    There was a delay with the prize and a complaint was raised as it had not been received after 28 days, despite me keeping the winner in the loop. I, like you, felt bullied and when you do this for a hobby it really makes you think twice about continuing!

  • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy April 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Deary me it is all so petty – from the person who made the complaint right through to the list?! Lesson learnt for many of us though I’m sure that I won’t be the only one who is thankful for you posting this Liz.

  • Mamacook April 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Wow. That seems a bit heavy handed.

  • Katie Craig April 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    This makes me so cross – you do the right thing but still you get ‘told off’ for it. I guess we just all have to learn from it – and there are spiteful individuals out there with a jobs worth attitude to everything. Good luck in dealing with the ASA hopefully they will see sense.

  • Galina V April 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    As someone who loves entering competitions and hosting giveaways on my blog, I am appalled at The Big Brother attitude in this case. I imagine it was another blogger with an inferior blog who enjoyed reporting you, feeling all righteous.

  • Metropolitan Mum April 19, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Seriously? This is boarder line ridiculous. I run competitions on my blog, too. I never thought that could be held against me. *dashes off to check if they all had a closing time*