Taking a Swipe at Sweepstakes: Five Legal Issues You Must Know

The PR team from Maytag and Peppercom turned to a sweepstakes to help transition Maytag’s Facebook page from a recall information center to a consumer engagement page. And like all PR pros, they had to acquaint themselves with liability, regulatory and compliance issues regarding sweepstakes and contests. Allison Fitzpatrick, partner in advertising, marketing & promotions at Davis & Gilbert LLP, addresses five legal issues PR pros must know before launching a sweepstakes on a social media platform:

  1. Check the social media platform’s terms and conditions. Facebook’s terms and conditions change frequently, warns Fitzpatrick. “They have promotion guidelines that often change, and which will no doubt affect your promotion.”

  2. Incorporate the social media platforms terms of service into the official rules. The sponsor/host has the responsibility to ensure that none of the content or submissions is obscene, racist or sexist—they will be held liable.

  3. Comply with general sweepstakes and contests laws. For example, if you’re requirement for entry is to write a product review, which requires the person to purchase a product, that is illegal, says Fitzpatrick.

  4. Include links to official rules. Entrants should have access to the rules before they enter. This can be difficult on Twitter, but you can post abbreviated rules with links in successive tweets, or use a link shortener to an official rules page.

  5. Reserve the right to terminate. You don’t control the Web site, the social media sites do, and they have the right to terminate it, says Fitzpatrick. “Have language that will protect you if the platform requires you to terminate it or move it someplace else.” 

PR News subscribers can read more about Peppercom and Maytag's PR efforts on Facebook in the case study: "
Maytag Launches Facebook Page During Negative Spin Cycle, But Turns Dishwasher Disses Into Engaged Fans."