East Midlands Railway has been reprimanded by the publicity watchdog after failing to award a promised £ 5,000 prize in a competition due to “poor quality of entries”.
The Build Back Better contest was featured on the East Midlands Railway website in February and invited members of the public to submit ideas to help them ‘build back better’, with the winner receiving a prize of £ 5,000.
A reader complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the contest was subsequently canceled and therefore violated the advertising rules.
The East Midland Railway franchise is operated by Dutch company Abellio, which told ASA that it launched the competition as part of its franchise agreement in the hope that it would generate innovative ideas.
Instead, Abellio said that they had received a high volume of entries that they considered to be low quality and that they were not convinced that any of the responses would be suitable to be implemented.
They said they were also starting to see the financial impact of the pandemic on UK rail services at this point.
The combination of the two factors led to their decision to withdraw the competition, rejecting all ideas submitted.
They acknowledged that this would be likely to disappoint entrants, but felt that they had acted in accordance with the terms of the competition, which stated that they had the right to cancel it at any time.
They had decided to cancel all future Build Better contests.
Advertising rules state that contest promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment and award prizes as described or reasonable equivalents.
The ASA said the advertising code required that a competent and independent judge, or a panel including an independent member, be appointed if the selection of a winning entry in a competition was open to subjective interpretation.
“We had seen nothing to indicate that such an independent judge or panel was involved in the decision to award the prize.
“We considered that by canceling the competition for the reasons given and by not awarding the prize, Abellio had not treated the participants fairly and had caused unnecessary disappointment. So we concluded that the competition had broken the code, ”said the ASA.
The watchdog added: “We have asked Abellio East Midlands to ensure that they award prizes in future competitions, as described in their marketing communications, to ensure that promotions are carried out under proper supervision. and to avoid causing unnecessary disappointment. “