East Midlands Railway breaches CAP Code by cancelling ‘Build Back Better’ competition

Advertising watchdog corrected the railway for not awarding the promised prize of £5,000

A train entering a train station.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has scolded East Midlands Railway (EMR) for failing to deliver a competition prize.

EMR had invited members of the public to take part in its ‘Build Back Better’ competition earlier in 2021. The competition stated that the winning entry would receive a prize of £5,000.

The ‘Build Back Better’ competition involved submitting ideas for creating improved opportunities for travel.

However, an entrant complained to the ASA, claiming the competition was suddenly and unfairly cancelled – potentially breaching the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code.

The CAP Code states that promoters must appoint an independent judge or panel to fairly judge the entries.

Moreover, it also states that promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment to participants in a fair and honourable way. Thus, avoiding giving participants reasonable grounds to file complaints.

Abellio East Midlands, which trades under the EMR name, claims that it rejected all of the competition entries as it received a high number of what it considered to be poor-quality submissions.

Additionally, Abellio recognised that this decision would be disappointing. But it felt it was justified within the terms of the competition and due to the impact the pandemic was having on UK rail services.

The ASA acknowledged that, while the terms and conditions of the competition stated that it could be cancelled, Abellio still had an obligation to comply with the Code.

An ASA spokesperson said: “We considered that by cancelling the competition for the reasons given and not awarding the prize, Abellio had not dealt fairly with participants and had caused unnecessary disappointment. We therefore concluded that the competition had breached the Code.”

While taking the Covid-19 pandemic into consideration, the competition was launched in February 2021 – almost a year into the pandemic. Therefore, the ASA noted that it was within Abellio’s control to prepare for the challenges that they faced.

While it has been decided to halt any future ‘Build Back Better’ projects, for future endeavours, the ASA told Abellio “to ensure that they awarded prizes in future competitions as described in their marketing communications, to make sure that promotions were conducted under proper supervision, and to avoid causing unnecessary disappointment”.

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