Quiz laws are ‘unworkable’ for marketing campaigns

The Gambling Commission’s guidance on the new rules on free draws and prize competitions have been criticised by a leading media lawyer, who says they could torpedomarketing plans.

Nick Johnson, head of advertising and sponsorship law at Osborne Clarke, says the commission has “effectively declared war on TV quizzes”.

Johnson says the guidance, published last week, comes just nine weeks before the 2005 Gambling Act comes into force, giving companies little time to comply.

“Given that the main consultation on these issues took place between August and October last year, and that large promotional campaigns are often planned and booked months in advance, this will not win the commission many friends in the industry,” he says.

The new guidelines, which come into force on July 1, will not allow premium rate charges on text message entries for draws and low-skill competitions.

The “free entry point” alternatives, such as website and e-mail entries, may work for certain prize promotions with long response periods, but will be unworkable for premium rate TV quiz competitions where immediate responses are required.

And with no clear guidance for “gaming” under the new gambling act, online promotional competitions and tournaments would, in effect, be criminalised, he adds.

“The familiar format of one simple question designed to spark high volume calls at a premium rate will disappear from our screens come September,” he says.

Furthermore, there is no offer of transitional arrangements for existing promotions and competitions with periods that may run beyond September 1 this year.

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