Age Matters When Planning a Promotion
Fae Savignano, Marden-Kane SVP, provided this week’s post.
To fully understand this concept, we first need to define what the age of majority (legal age) means.
The age of majority is the legally defined age at which a person is considered an adult, with all the attendant rights and responsibilities of adulthood. The age of majority is defined by state laws, which vary by state, but is 18 in most states. Rights acquired upon reaching the age of majority include the rights to vote and consent to marriage, among others. However, the right to vote is 18 nationwide under the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, regardless of the state laws. It is the age at which one becomes a legal adult and gains full legal rights. It is also the age at which a person is liable for their own actions, such as contractual obligations or liability for negligence. In general, a parental duty of support to a child ceases when the child reaches the age of majority.
Many sweepstakes restrict entry to people who have reached the age of majority in their state of residence. In the United States, the age of majority is determined by each individual state, and can vary by several years. This table shows the breakdown of the age of majority by state, so you can easily see which sweepstakes you can enter.
|18:||AK, AZ, CA, CO, CN, DC, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NH, NM, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TX, VT, WA, WV, WY|
|18 or graduation from high school, whichever is latest:||OH, UT, AR, TN, VA|
|18, or if still in high school at 18, 19 or graduation, whichever comes first:||NV, WI|
|19:||AL, DE, NE|
Note that some other factors can also influence the age of majority. For example, if a judge declares a minor emancipated, he or she usually receives majority at the same time. Many areas also give majority to minors who marry or who join the armed forces.
Now that we understand what the age of majority is, we can start to examine how age affects promotions. U.S. laws demand that personal information collected from minors be handled differently than that of adults. For this reason, the vast majority of sweepstakes restrict entry to people aged 18 (or age of majority in their state of residence) or older. However, there are promotions that are aimed specifically to children or to other targeted age groups. And for these promotions, appropriate attention to specific guidelines and regulations will be required.
If your brand or service targets those under the age of 18, you may want to invite minors to participate and submit entries in your promotion. In so doing, sweepstakes and contests conducted online which are open to children under the age of 13; create even more obligations for marketers. With a growing array of laws surrounding personal privacy, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) implementing rules, and self-regulatory programs, such as the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising, companies should be sure that contests and sweepstakes directed to children in particular meet applicable requirements.
The FTC looks at a variety of factors to see if a site or service is directed to children under 13, including the subject matter of the site or service, visual and audio content, the use of animated characters or other child-oriented activities and incentives, the age of models, the presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to kids, ads on the site or service that are directed to children, and other reliable evidence about the age of the actual or intended audience. For more information on FTC guidelines, please read our blog, How to Avoid a Call from the FTC When You Run a Sweepstakes.
The CARU guidelines provide that advertisers should recognize that children may have unrealistic expectations about the chances of winning a sweepstakes or contest or inflated expectations of the prize(s) to be won. Thus, all prizes should be clearly depicted, the free means of entry and likelihood of winning should be clearly disclosed (CARU provides that the phrase “many will enter, a few will win” should be used, where appropriate), all prizes should be appropriate to the child audience, and online sweepstakes and contests should not require the child to provide more information than is reasonably necessary.
Age eligibility issues aren’t limited to just minors or children under the age of 13. The design and formulation of an Internet sweepstakes or contest requires care and specialized knowledge of all the regulatory challenges to limit legal exposure and develop proactive legal and compliance strategies. For example, all alcohol sponsored promotions and events (within States that have approved said promotions/events), can only be made available to persons over 21 years of age and age affirmation must take place before entrant is allowed to enter the promotion site.
Prizes and awarding of prizes can also be affected by the age of the recipient. If a minor wins a prize, it is customarily claimed by and awarded to their parent or legal guardian who will also need to sign and complete all the prize claim documents required. If the prizes offered in your promotion includes a hotel stay, cruise, car rental or tickets to a particular event or show; you should definitely check to see what the minimum age requirements are for each. For example, hotels typically do not allow check-in by an individual under the age of 21, some car rentals will only rent to people 25 or older, cruise guests under the age of 21 must be accompanied in the same stateroom by parent or guardian 25 or older; and some events and/or shows will not allow minors to attend even if accompanied by an adult.
Here are some parting tips:
- Display essential eligibility requirements in a place where the web visitor will see them before entering the promotion.
- Consider requiring the visitor/entrant to review and even acknowledge the Official Rules before entering the promotion.
- Apply all noted age gate mechanisms and parental notification requirements as specified in the COPPA, FTC and CARU guidelines. Mechanisms that appear to entice children to lie about their age are prohibited.
- All alcohol sponsored promotions can only be made available to 21 and over, within States that allow such promotions.
- Confirm the age requirements for awarding and acceptance of prizes offered.
- If you have a question about the material written above or want to run a compliant promotion for children 12 and under contact us today!
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