The Advertising Standards Agency says that a competition that was run by rail operator East Midlands Railway, breached advertising codes of conduct.
The competition was run on the East Midlands Railway website, seen on the 1st February 2021, and invited people to take part and submit ideas to help them to Build Back Better, and the winner would win £5,000.
A member of the public has challenged this competition, saying it had been cancelled and wondered if it had breached the ASA code.
EMR’s parent company, Abellio East Midlands Ltd, said that the Build Back Better competition was a “contractual obligation” as part of their franchise agreement and was thought about before the coronavirus pandemic.
The operator also said that they had not intended to run the competition during a global pandemic, but they went ahead with it hoping that it would generate ideas for the franchise.
EMR said that they received a high volume of ‘poor quality entries’ and also said that they ‘were not satisfied’ that any of the responses would be suitable to be implemented.
Additionally, the operator said that by this point, they were beginning to feel the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Abellio said that, whilst they acknowledged that cancelling the competition would cause disappointment to those who had entered, they felt they had acted within the terms of the competition, which stated that they had the right to cancel at any point.
The ASA has investigated this, and have said the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) states that promoters must complete their promotions promptly and efficiently whilst avoiding causing unnecessary disappointment.
Whilst the ASA recognise the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they have also noted that this competition was launched in February 2021, nearly a year into the pandemic, meaning that it would NOT of been outside of Abellio’s control to anticipate the challenges before deciding to go ahead with the competition.
The competition’s prize of £5,000 was, due to the competition being cancelled, not awarded. The ASA says regardless of Abellio thinking non of the ideas were suitable, it did not stop them from awardng the prize, and the T&Cs of the competition did not set out what would happen if none of the ideas were implemented.
The terms and conditions stated “ideas must be realistic and achievable and able to be implemented quickly and easily by the promoter” but the ASA says that this could be interpreted in different ways – and says that the criteria of the promotion had not been set out clearly.
The ASA says after investigation that they had found EMR to be in breach of the CAP Code, rules 8.2 8.14 8.15.1 8.26 8.27 and 8.28.6 (Promotional marketing).
The ASA has told East Midlands Railway to make sure future competitions are drawn as described and to make sure promotions were conducted under supervision to avoid unnecessary disappointment.
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