Sweepstakes – what is allowed?

"Only those who buy our product can participate", "congratulations, you can choose a prize" or instead of a car, only a poster is raffled off – are the companies allowed to do all this??

Picture: franz metelec / fotolia.Com

The basic rule beforehand: if someone offers a prize, it must actually exist and it must be played out. If someone raffles something without stating his identity (for example a website that has no imprint at all), something is very wrong. So it’s better to keep your hands off them!

But also serious providers use methods for lotteries, where one wonders from time to time if they are allowed to do so at all. Here are some examples:

The little star and the small print

That sounds really great: simply like a fan page on facebook and you could win a car. What hardly anyone notices: behind the word "auto is a small star (i.e.: car*) and if you look in the description of the fan page, what is hidden behind the star, you will see that only a poster is raffled, which shows a car.

a highlighted statement must be correct in itself. Unclear information may be marked with a * and explained somewhere else, if this prevents misleading. So this means for you: where there is a *, always look for the clarification! Who finds none, should perhaps leave the fingers of such a raffle.

The compulsory purchase

sometimes you are only allowed to participate in a raffle if you buy something from the company organizing the raffle beforehand. This can actually be okay. However, such couplings are unlawful z.B., when an "extreme attraction" exists. Whether this is so, must be examined for each individual case.

Consent to advertising

Often, in order to participate in a lottery, you have to agree that the offerer may call you or send you mail or a letter. may send e-mails. In many cases, this is actually permitted, because no one is forced to participate in a sweepstake. However, you should read the explanations in the small print very carefully! Often one allows at the same time that the data may be resold. If you no longer wish to receive advertising, you can revoke your consent. The revocation must then be sent to any company that has the data. This costs time.

If necessary, it may also make sense, independently of consent, to object to direct advertising and the associated profiling and to demand that the data be blocked. The consumer advice center offers a sample letter for this purpose.

The congratulation letter

"Winning notifications" come by e-mail or by post. You will be congratulated on a large sum of money – at least that’s how it looks at first glance. Because in smaller print, the high amount of money is sometimes preceded by "the chance of", which quickly turns the prize into a rivet. Then the whole letter is a deception and you have no claim to a prize. However, it is different if you are addressed by name as a winner who has already been determined. Then you can even sue for the promised profit. However, this is connected with many hurdles – even more so if the company is based abroad. Help in assessing a prize notification is offered by local consumer advice centers.


We have dedicated a separate article to the prospects of winning great prizes by SMS: winning an iPhone or a gift certificate by SMS?

Competitions on facebook and instagram

There is also a separate article on this topic with explanations on how you can unmask fake sweepstakes step by step: recognizing fake sweepstakes

The call

In a drawing you have supposedly won a prize and may choose one from several presenters. You can also subscribe to a magazine at a low price. What is sold as a great prize is a deceitful scam to sell magazine subscriptions with a completely normal advertising premium. The callers often claim to be calling on behalf of a mobile phone provider or another well-known company. This avoids that you ask, for example, where your data comes from. Because without your consent, such calls are not allowed at all.

If you discover after the call that you don’t want a magazine subscription at all, you can have it clarified whether an effective contract was concluded at all. If this is indeed the case, there is still the right of revocation. This means: without paying a cent, you get out of the contract. The deadline for this is 14 days and begins as soon as you have received the goods for the first time. Because all this is tricky, experts – for example from the legal advice service of the consumer advice center – should be consulted. In order to be able to revoke a possible contract later, it is important to ask for a postal address of the company during the conversation! If they are only hesitant or not mentioned at all, there is usually something wrong and you should hang up.

Under no circumstances should you provide your bank details! These could be used to unauthorized money to debit. If this happens, file a complaint with the police!

The lottery hotline

"hit line 10 and you’ll be put through", is a frequent statement on radio or television. The listeners/viewers should dial a telephone number that begins with 0137 and costs 50 cents per call in the fixed network – and from the cell phone it is even more expensive. Even if you call often and never "line 10" caught: this is allowed, as long as the organizer of the lottery clearly explains that it is only a "winner’s line gives. In addition, the costs must also be announced when calling. Whether you get involved and participate and how often you call is up to you.

The customer card

Sometimes companies organize special competitions for holders of a loyalty card. the more you use the card, the greater your chance to win. With this, of course, the companies try to lure their customers even more often into the stores and to let them buy strongly. Whether that’s okay depends on what’s in the general terms and conditions (GTC) for the card. If you don’t want to take part in the competition, you can simply leave your customer card in your shopping bag until the competition is over.

You have more questions about sweepstakes and what is allowed in them? Post it as a comment below this article!

The text of this article is available under creative commons license: what does it mean??

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Christina Cherry
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