Can the Official Rules Be Changed After the Promotion Has Started?
Fae Savignano, EVP, wrote this post dealing with a questions we often get from our clients: Can the Official Rules be changed after the promotion has started?
All promotions, such as contests, sweepstakes, instant win games, etc. must have an appropriate set of Official Rules that will govern the promotion. These “Official Rules” are referred to as the contract between the sponsor of the promotion and the entrant. And to further qualify this statement, as each entrant enters the promotion they are asked to accept the Official Rules and therefore agree to be bound by them. The rules will clearly define who can enter, when and how they can enter, how a winner will be determined, how they will be notified, what prizes are being offered and if there are any restrictions associated with the prize. Beyond the aforementioned participation requirements and prize claim instructions, the official rules must also include legal disclaimers and disclosures mandated by law that will protect both the sponsor and the entrant.
Therefore, the Official Rules should not be changed once the promotion has started.
Here are some reasons why:
- It is illegal and/or a violation to change the official rules (specifically the “material terms”) especially if you have already registered and bonded your promotion with the AG in the States of NY and/or FL.
- It may compromise the integrity of the promotion.
- It may create negative public feedback.
- It may change the odds of winning.
- It may create an unfair advantage or disadvantage to current entrants.
Material terms include (but not limited to), any eligibility restrictions; how winners are selected; and the quantity, description and value of prizes offered.
Although you should NOT modify material terms once your promotion has begun, sometimes a revision is inevitable.
If a change must be made it cannot apply retroactively; therefore all entries received prior to the change will still be eligible. The Sponsor does reserve the right to terminate, suspend or amend the Promotion, without notice, and for any reason, including, without limitation, if Sponsor determines that the Promotion cannot be conducted as planned or should a virus, bug, tampering or unauthorized intervention, technical failure or other cause beyond Sponsor’s control corrupt the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper entry/play of the Promotion.
Notice of any changes made to the Official Rules hence the promotion, should be announced before making it effective. Announcements of all revisions should be conspicuous and available on all mediums wherein the promotion has been / is / and will be advertised. For example, if you are promoting on-air, then you must reveal your change via an on-air announcement. Your Official Rules should also be revised accordingly and the revisions clearly identified and dated “effective as of”.
Before making any decision about changing the rules to your promotion after it has begun, we recommend that you contact us and/or consult with your legal team who has the appropriate experience with state and federal laws pertaining to all types of promotions.
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