The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against Sony and GAME over how last year's 20th Anniversary PS4 competition was conducted.
The ASA says that six complainants alleged that the competition's rules had been breached, and were further aggrieved that the names of the winners had not allegedly been published for verification.
The 399 machine was only available to those who took part in an online competition. To win, contestants would have to correctly identify a game character hinted at in a clue and then identify their position in a Sony-made graphic containing some 300 or so characters. Clicking on the character would then lead to a URL, hosted by retailer GAME, where an order for the console could be placed.
Only 100 consoles were to be offered each day, with the first to solve the clue grabbing one for free.
However, the URL used to link to the order form was static and not different for each contestant. Therefore, once one person had identified there were no safeguards in place to prevent it being shared online meaning even those who had failed to solve the puzzle could try and obtain a machine.
Sony admitted to the ASA that while it was able to track the chronological order in which users accessed the page, it had no way of identifying whether they arrived at it directly of via the competition.
It was able to disqualify those who obtained access prior to the competition going live each day and it was mostly able to prevent people making multiple purchases – although five customers were in fact able to buy two machines. GAME also added that the names of those who won each of the five free consoles were published online.
The ASA said it was satisfied that orders were taken on a first-come first-served basis as advertised, that the winners had been publicly named and that any disqualifications were fair, but it upheld complaints regarding other technicalities of the process.
Although processes had been put in place to try to prevent consumers from purchasing more than one console, at least five consumers had been able to do so, against the promotion's terms and conditions,” it said.
We also understood that a link to the opportunity to purchase the console could be shared, which meant that neither Sony nor Game could tell whether consumers had accessed the link after having solved the clue, or having been sent the link. We considered that meant entrants who had attempted to enter by solving the clue were likely to have been disadvantaged and therefore unnecessarily disappointed.
Because, for the reasons given, the promotion had caused unnecessary disappointment, we concluded that it had not been administered fairly, and therefore that it had breached the Code.”
Both companies have promised to do better in future.