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They are everywhere. On social media and on individual blogs. With an array of prizes, you can pretty much find anything/everything being given away.
There was a situation recently that kind of
upset me pissed me off– related to this when it came to MY PRIVACY and I wanted to address how we as bloggers handle giveaways and how they SHOULD be handled. Yes, I said SHOULD.
There are two parts to this discussion I want to discuss– the ethical side and the legal side. Both are equally important; but to stay out of tl;dr territory, I will break them up into two separate posts.
Let talks legal today.
I’ve always known that there are laws governing these – and paid attention to most; changing how I run them and who they are open to. However, I started digging deeper. I found that maybe we aren’t as compliant as we thought.
When hosting a giveaway, you have to keep in mind that you are required to remain in compliance with not only US Federal law, State laws and Terms and Conditions (if held on Facebook/Twitter) but also in other countries if your giveaway is international. 99% of the time, we are not.
Did you know!?
- In Canada, the winner can not be chosen by luck, but rather some element of skill must be involved
- In most sates, a prize over $5,000 has to be licensed, bonded and you must register with the state.
- Failure to award a prize is COSTLY in most states.
Another example; if your giveaway is open to the ALL of the US – you not only have to comply with Federal Law but with ALL state laws, not just YOUR STATE, because you don’t know where your entries are coming from.
A closer look – what are you hosting?
- These are generally what we host – winners are randomly selected.
- Prize – DUH
- Chance – Winner is chosen by luck
- Consideration – Enters with something of VALUE
- Winner is chosen based on merit. YOU actually choose the winner based on talent, photo, etc.
Here is where we run into some problems, my friends;
Have you hosted a giveaway (or entered one) that have a required entry to follow a blog, twitter, leave a comment or visit and/or like before the other entries can be opened? That would be an illegal LOTTERY because; they are in a sense PAYING. YOU are gaining something from their entry, something of value – a follower. NOT ONLY THAT – having a required entry in which the entrant is to navigate to a 3rd party site, like Goodreads and/or Amazon – floats in that gray area as well.
Time is valuable too. So one could argue that spending a LOT of time on entering a sweepstakes could be CONSIDERATION, thus making your sweepstakes an illegal lottery. KEEP.IT.SIMPLE.
It’s a blurred line IMO on whether or not “following” or “liking” OR commenting as an EXTRA entry is legal. Technically, you are still gaining something by that entry, but it’s not required. If you do, that entry cannot have a higher value over the free entry. I couldn’t find anything else on the web regarding this; because there are laws still being “developed” (for lack of a better word).
Now for those under 18. I always thought that disclosing “13 years of age or older with parents’ permission” would CMA (cover my ass). Sadly, I don’t think it does.
One of the things you need to think about is if your contest/giveaway falls into a contract. Minors are not legally held accountable and able to enter a contract – and having parents’ permission is kind of vague. They would have to click a box saying they are giving permission, enter a birthday date and/or email or sign a document. There are many legality issues with this that honestly, I don’t want to touch.
Example; If you check entries and require them to remain a follower, that is, IN A SENSE, a contract. They are agreeing to follow you for a chance at a prize. BLURRED LINES.
I thought hosting giveaways on social media were easier – sadly, I was wrong again. As I mentioned before, not only do you have to be compliant with Federal, state and international laws, but now you have an additional layer of the terms and conditions of the site.
You cannot require someone to like your page, comment or SHARE A POST for entries. You can get around this by saying that they have to already be a fan to enter – meaning that the LIKE of your page does not count as an entry. Not only that, you are not able to contact the winner on Facebook OR, are you allowed to host a giveaway on your wall. It HAS to be through a 3rd party app. Furthermore, you have to release Facebook by stating, “[…..] by each entrant, acknowledgment that the promotion is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Facebook, and a disclosure statement that the participant is providing information to someone other than Facebook.”
WHOOPS. I do this ALL THE TIME. >.<
If Facebook gets wind of your contest/giveaway that breaks their rules, they WILL shut down your page.
The only thing I can really find is that you should only require them to RT to enter. Requiring them to follow will put your contest in an illegal lottery category. You could always CYA and state you must be a follower to be eligible, just like with Facebook.
( RT to win (prize) Must be follower to be eligible. Open US end 7/10) or something along those lines.
Link to your Official Rules in the tweet. (RT to #win (prize) subject to official rules (link) Open to US ends 7/10)
FOLLOWERS: RT for a chance to win (prize) open to US residents, ends 7/10– Thanks Nick
*However – I can’t find anything really supporting this; except for the whole requiring them to follow you THING – so. *shrug*
How to CYA
If you use Rafflecopter, or any third-party site, there is an area for Terms and Conditions. When someone enters, they are agreeing to the terms and conditions that you placed when hitting ENTER. So, always ALWAYS put terms and conditions and Official Rules on your Rafflecopter. AND, have a giveaway official rules page/post and link to it. (I stopping linking but I will now).
ALWAYS HAVE THIS DISCLOSED:
- “NO PURCHASE NECESSARY” and “VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW”
- Have only 1 mandatory entry that is FREE and the rest just optional. (or have them ALL optional) Having the first required entry to visit, like, follow etc is an illegal lottery. Remember, your “extra” entries cannot be worth more entries than your free one.
- Your prize must be clear – state if you are giving away a gift card, physical book, eBook or audio book. (This is just good practice, anyway)
- CLEARLY state the value of the prize.
- CLEARLY state who can enter. Remember, Federal State and international laws, baby.
- How long does it last?
- How to enter – Even saying, “Enter below using the Rafflecopter and follow the prompts” should cover you.
- How Winner Is Chosen – You must disclose how the winner will be chosen.
- Technical Issues – Do you delete duplicate entries? YOU NEED TO TELL THEM
- What are the odds? I typically say, “The number of eligible entries determines odds”
- Is the prize sponsored? You should disclose that! This is major and just ONE thing I will address next time.
- Do not extend your giveaway or change the prize.
- You NEED a privacy page and disclosure. You are collecting PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and you need to disclose how it is used, where it is stored and that you don’t sell or give it away. (more on this later)
Now, I know what you might be thinking. “Has anything EVER really happened?” (Probably not) or “But so and so hold these giveaways all the time!” (that does not make it legal). However, there was a situation where a blogger was sued, I just can’t find the info to save my life. Is stealing okay because you weren’t caught? Is speeding okay because you weren’t pulled over? NO. Laws are laws, people.
I honestly think the popularly of these blog and social media giveaways are the reason that there haven’t been many issues. No one has the time (or resources) to track, monitor and prosecute everyone; and you can’t hold one person accountable and not everyone else doing the same thing.
I hate to say it – BUT. There are people that WILL report you, especially if something doesn’t go their way. The odds are low that someone will stumble upon your illegal giveaway and press charges, but it’s another situation if someone reports you and you are investigated. My advice is to play it safe. There is no harm in that. And if you are thinking that you might not gain any followers for hosting giveaways, lawfully?? Well, it’s just not worth it.
Sooner or later, the laws governing Sweepstakes, Contests and Lotteries on the internet will catch up. What then?
Changes to Lilybloombooks?
Uh, yes.. I am pretty confident that, for the most part, I have been in compliance (within the past year or so >.<). However, the age and international laws kind of freak me out a bit. I have a few giveaways currently going on now – so changes wont start until after those are done. I will have an update on a later date on what I am doing to comply will ALL the laws.
Discourse. I am not a lawyer. I am however, a compliance officer and deal with laws, rules and regulations on the daily.
- Are your giveaways legal?
- Was any of this information helpful?
- What will you do now about holding giveaways on your blog or social media sites? Any changes?
Tonyalee is an avid reader, gym junkie, coffee addicted workaholic, and blogger. Be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram for random shenanigans.