A direct email from Paddy Power had the following subject line heading:
“[Recipient’s name] we’re rewarding your loyalty with a free bet!”
In the body of the email the offer was advertised as follows:
“Tennis Free Bet
Place 50 bets and get a free one
Bet Now (button) T&C’s apply.
Hi [Recepient’s name]
We've some fascinating tennis from all around the globe this week with the ATP Zhuhai Challangers, ATP Santiago Challenger, ATP Brasil Open & WTA Indian Wells Qualifiers all getting underway.
We've extended our tennis free bet offer too! For every 50 bets you place on tennis in one week, we'll give you a free bet to the value of your average stake. Max one free bet per week up to 250 quid.
Don’t miss a break point at the ATP Brasil Open & WTA Indian Wells Open over the next few days, we're live streaming all of the action!
Also included in the email were offers on horse racing and football together with terms and conditions for all three offers.
The complainant considered the subject line of the email advertising was misleading. He stated that when he opened the email he found out that he would have to place 50 bets in one week to avail of the free bet.
The complainant considered that the offer had drawn him into a cycle of trying to place 50 bets in one week on tennis and had cost him a fortune.
The advertisers said that the advertisement had included details of all promotional offers which were available to the customer, the full terms and conditions for each of the offers, a responsible gambling message, the 18+ symbol and the regulatory footer which included the marketing ‘unsubscribe’ link which allowed customers to unsubscribe from future marketing emails.
In regards to the complaint itself, they said that the advertisement contained details of three promotional offers which were available, one football, one horseracing and one tennis offer and they noted that the complainant was objecting to the tennis offer only.
They said that the tennis offer was mentioned in the headline of the advert where it had referred to the requirement to place 50 bets to get a free bet. They said that the main body copy of the advertisement had explained the detail of the offer and that the full terms and conditions of the offer were included within the body of the email. As all the material information about the tennis offer, including the terms and conditions, had been included within the advert they did not consider that it was misleading, they did, however, agree with the complainant that the subject line did not accurately reflect the contents of the advertisement. They said that they would be happy to not use the subject line in future and advised that they would amend it to “a great offer on the tennis.”
In regards to the issue of responsible gambling, they said that they were committed to ensuring that their customers gamble responsibly and their responsible gambling policies included the following:
• a dedicated responsible gambling microsite with tools for customers to manage their betting activity and inform gamblers, friends and family to increase awareness of when someone might be developing a problem.
• a monitoring programme to review customer transactions, identify changes in behaviour and contact the customers;
• customer-driven deposit limits with ‘cooling off’ periods that have to be observed before they can be increased;
• ‘time out’ options for customers to take a short break from their gambling and to reassess their choices;
• Self-exclusion tools for customers who would like their account closed for a minimum of 6 months or over a longer period and;
• Session times and awareness pop-ups which allow customers to control their activity for games or events that have no natural end.
The said that the intention of their tennis promotion was not to incentivise customers to place a large number of bets over a short space of time, but rather to reward loyal customers who would otherwise complete that level of wagering on tennis markets during the same period. They said that there was no obligation on customers to take part in the tennis promotion.
They also said that the advertisement was only sent to customers who had agreed to receive marketing communications from them and it was only sent to those who regularly placed a large number of bets on tennis. They said that unlike other sports, around 90% of all tennis bets were placed ‘in-play’ while the match was actually taking place and that customers who bet in-play on tennis typically placed a higher number of bets than they did in other sports. They said that the promotion was only offered when there was a full schedule of tennis available and at the time the email was sent, there were four tournaments in play.
They also referred to the fact that the email also contained two additional offers on horseracing and football which could be obtained by placing one qualifying bet and the full terms and conditions of these offers had also been included in the email.
They said that customers could opt out of receiving marketing emails from Paddy Power at any time by clicking the “click to unsubscribe” link which was included in all marketing communications sent by them.
The advertisers referred to their responsible gambling microsite which contained tools to help manage betting activity. One such option was for users to request a permanent self-exclusion whereby they would close the users account permanently. Such accounts could not be re-opened and the user would no longer receive promotional emails.
Finally, they said that they did not consider that their advertising was misleading, nor did they consider that it condoned or encouraged gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.
The Executive requested further information from the advertiser which included information regarding the criteria used to determine the required number of bets in the offer.
In response, the advertisers stated that they conducted consumer research to identify potential new tennis promotional offers. They said that they had asked a group of tennis bettors which promotion, from a range of possible offers, appealed the most to them. They said that the results of the survey showed that for high volume bettors, the offer of a free bet for every 50 tennis bets placed was the joint-top most appealing offer and they therefore went ahead with the offer, marketing it to customers who typically placed a large number of bets each week on tennis markets.
They also provided the Executive, on a confidential basis, information in regards to the number of tennis bets being placed over a specific period of time.
Complaint Upheld in Part
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the advertisers had agreed that the subject line of the email had inaccurately reflected the detail of the promotion and would amend it for future similar offers. While the Committee noted that the body copy of the email had clearly outlined the details of the tennis offer, they considered that the subject line was misleading and was in breach of Sections 4.1 and 4.4 of the Code.
The Committee noted that the promotional offer was only sent to those who regularly placed a large number of bets on tennis and that the offer had been chosen based on research carried out with their target market. The Committee also noted that information had been provided, on a confidential basis, on tennis betting levels which sufficiently showed that the required number of bets was in line with normal betting habits for the target market. In the circumstances the Committee did not uphold this aspect of the complaint.
ACTION REQUIRED: As the advertiser had undertaken not to use the subject heading again, no further action was required.