A direct email to Paddy Power customers offering a free bet stated:
“Go CheltMental. Free Bet.”
Underneath the headline was a “Bet Now” button which recipients could click on, bringing them directly to the Paddy Power website. Small text beside this stated: “Selected markets only. T&C’s apply.”
The body copy of the email stated:
“It’s no secret that Paddy has properly lost the plot and is handing out Cheltenham offers like women hand out back-handed compliments to their fat mates.
Today he’s had his liver spotted hand in the free bet jar and he wants to share with you! All you have to do is place 5 bets of a fiver or more on racing today and get a free bet, matching your average stake, to use on tomorrow’s racing.”
Underneath the body copy text was a further “Bet Now” button linked to their website.
Terms and conditions of the offer were included at the end of the email.
“Terms and Conditions:
Place 5 or more bets of £/€5 or more on Cheltenham today and we’ll give you a free bet of €/£5 for Cheltenham on Friday.
Applies to single bets placed on horse racing only.
Applies to bets placed Online or on mobile only.
Max Free bet €/£5.
Qualifying bets must be placed at odds of 1/5 or higher.
Maximum of one free bet per customer.
Free bet stake not returned.
Paddy Power horse racing rules apply.
Free bets can be redeemed on Friday 14th March at Cheltenham only and will be credited by 10am on that day.
Paddy Power reserves the right in its discretion to exclude and/or limit the availability of the offer to certain customers.”
The complainant received the email and placed five bets totalling £110 and expected to receive a free bet of £22, his average stake. He stated that he had originally opened the email on his mobile phone and the terms and conditions were not visible and he only became aware of them after he viewed the email on his laptop. He considered that the advertisement had encouraged him to place more bets than he normally would and had he been aware that he would only receive a free bet worth £5 he would not have placed his final two bets. He therefore considered that the email was misleading as the headline offer had stated that he would get a free bet matching his average stake while the terms and conditions had contradicted this.
Paddy Power stated that both sections of the email should have detailed that the offer was for a €/£5 free bet only as this was the correct offer. They stated that there had been no intention to mislead customers and the statement offering a free bet of the customer’s average stake was as a result of human error. They referred to the fact that they had not received any other complaint in regards to the advertising. They apologised for the error and stated that they would be happy to credit the difference to the complainant in the form of a free bet.
They also referred to the fact that they contact roughly 2.6 million customers via email in any 12 month period which resulted in around 86.5 million emails over the course of a year. They stated that a number of teams across their business are involved in getting the emails to customers and every effort is put in place to ensure accuracy and transparency. They stated that their teams are continually provided with training and guidance notes in respect of checking communications to customers and that before each email is sent it is proof read by two teams. They noted, however, that unfortunately in this instance this error was missed. They stated that the relevant teams had been notified and they would continue to try and improve on their processes to ensure compliance with the ASAI Code.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the headline offer ‘Free Bet’ and the reference to the free bet ‘matching your average stake’ in the body copy of the email had included a ‘Bet Now’ link to their website. While reference had been made to terms and conditions in the email, the Committee considered that the headline offer had been contradicted by the terms and conditions at the bottom of the email. The Committee therefore considered that the advertising was in breach of Section 2.24 of the Code.
The advertisement must not reappear in its current form.