No purchase necessary for chance

In order to avoid being classified as an illegal lottery by laws in Canada’s Criminal Code, companies that run chance-based contests are required to provide free entries for customers

Image by: Tiffany Lam

Reading the fine print could mean the difference between spending and saving money.

A close look at the rules shows that contestants don’t necessarily have to pay to obtain an entry for any chance-based contest.

Popular contests such as Tim Horton’s Roll Up the Rim and Coffee Time’s Flip to Win have to, by law, indicate that there’s “no purchase necessary” in order to enter their contest. But it may not be as easy as asking for an extra cup over the counter.

The same rule applies for entries into contests such as Pizza Nova’s Peel and Reveal and Budweiser’s Bud Camp.

Legally, all Canadian chance-based contests must abide by this rule in order to avoid being classified as an illegal lottery by the Criminal Code.

According to one Canadian lawyer, in absence of these regulations, chance-based contests are essentially the same as lotteries such as Lotto 649.

“They want to stop companies from saying ‘you want to buy our product in the hopes of winning something,’” said the lawyer, who didn’t want to be identified due to the potential of a conflict of interest.

Unless companies obtain a specific permit to run a lottery, they must be willing to hand over a free entry to every person.

The lawyer said that contests usually require people to mail in a letter in order to get their free entry.

“Practically, a lot of people would rather [not] write a 50 word essay,” the lawyer said. “A lot of people don’t exercise that route. That said, they have the option.”

But once you’ve won the prize, the game may not necessarily be over. In some cases, chance-based contests require winners to answer a skill-testing question to claim their prize.

This regulation is also outlined in the Criminal Code, as every chance-based contest winner must be chosen, at least partially, by skill.

“The courts have said that math is [a] skill for Canadians,” the lawyer said. “So that’s why you will always see that Canadian residents are required to answer a mathematical skill testing question.”

The lawyers also noted that all businesses, large and small, who run chance-based contests, must abide by these rules.

When Anneke Van den Hof won a barbecue at the age of eight, her father was required to answer a skill-testing question.

“He was pretty skeptical that you had to answer a question to get the barbecue,” she said. “So he answered them all wrong on purpose and they still gave it to us.”

Van den Hof, ArtSci ’13, won the barbecue after her father had bought her a hot chocolate at a Tim Hortons in Nova Scotia.

Since she was a minor, her father had to claim her prize.

Although she hasn’t won any big prizes since, Van den Hof said she still plays Roll Up the Rim every year.

“Half the reason I’m buying the coffee is for the cup,” she said. “It’s just some very low-risk gambling.”

This year, Tim Hortons has almost 261 million Roll Up the Rim contest cups circulating and is giving away approximately $54 million worth of prizes.

But some of these claimed prizes haven’t been without conflict.

In 2006, there was a highly publicized dispute involving Roll Up the Rim. A 10-year-old girl from Quebec found a cup in the trash and asked an older child to help her roll up the rim.

Turns out that the cup was a winner — one of the few $30,000 car prizes. Both children’s parents claimed the prize, as well as the person who had initially thrown the cup away. In the end, Tim Hortons chose to give the car to the family of the younger child.

On a much smaller scale, Common Ground Coffeehouse also hosts its own chance-based contest. The annual Golden Ticket contest, which promotes the store’s second location in the JDUC, CoGro Express, runs a 12-day competition.

Each day, winning tickets are put into some premade wraps and sandwiches — prizes include items such as gift certificates and iPods. The odds of winning are one in seven and any customer is eligible to win.

Head Manager Mackenzie Goodwin estimates that business at the Express location this year has doubled during the contest. On its busiest day, the location tripled its usual business.

According to Queen’s Hospitality Services, this year the Tim Hortons outlet in the Queen’s Centre hasn’t seen an increase in business despite the recent Feb. 17 launch of Roll Up the Rim to Win.

“Especially with that new Tim Hortons in the JDUC, it’s nice to have people coming up to Express and realizing that [the location] does have potential to sustain those sales,” Goodwin, ArtSci ’13, said.

The timing of the Golden Ticket contest doesn’t purposely correlate to the Roll Up the Rim contest, she added.

“March is usually a busy month for us in terms of sales, so we thought it would be good for us to bring people over to Express so that the line wouldn’t be long at [the main location],” she said.

When people do find a winning ticket, they’re not required to answer a mathematical skill-testing question, and Goodwin said that it would be logistically difficult for them to abide by the “no purchase necessary” regulation.

“It’s such a small-scale contest and the prizes aren’t massive things like cars and houses and stuff,” she said. “We can’t give a premade to anyone, but technically if someone asked, we would have to.”

She added that the AMS doesn’t have any specific policy relating to contests such as this.

“We just have to clear it with our Director, they oversee any logistics that they’d see problems with, “ she said. “We’re really the only [AMS service] who has done a contest like this.”


Contests, Marketing, Tim Hortons

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