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  • Anmol Trehin

Social Media Contests (and Sweepstakes): Your Comprehensive Legal Guide

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

This post is not legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Always speak with a lawyer before acting on any of the information contained herein.


Disclaimer: Important Update Regarding Quebec Publicity Contests


In light of recent legislative changes, particularly the passing of Bill 17 in Quebec on October 27th, 2023, the information provided in blog post may not be up to date. Bill 17 has abolished specific standards and duties previously required by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux. To stay informed about the latest developments and regulations, we encourage you to read our most recent blog post on this topic.

Social Media Contests and Sweepstakes: What SMBs Need To Know About the Law.

Are you planning a contest or sweepstake this holiday season? Read this post before you take any further steps.


Using social media to host a promotional contest is a smart way to target a large audience to increase your engagement, reach, followers, and leads. We’ll cover some of the rules in place you need to consider before launching your next big contest.


Get in touch with us so we can take care of the legal framework for your contest.


SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES


Social media platforms have their contest-related guidelines. Here’s a quick overview of the guidelines from the most used platforms for contests.


Facebook


Through Facebook, promotional contests can be administered through pages, groups, events, or apps. However, Facebook expressly prohibits the use of personal timelines and friend connections. Using language like, “share on your timeline to enter”, or “share on your friend’s timeline to get an additional entry”, and “tag your friends in this post” are not allowed.


Facebook prohibits tagging or encouraging people to tag themselves in content in which they are not depicted.


Additionally, you must also:

  1. Include a complete release of Facebook by each person entering or participating in your promotional contest;

  2. Acknowledge that the promotional contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook.

Instagram


Like Facebook, Instagram doesn’t allow you to tag content or encourage participants to tag themselves in content in which they aren’t depicted. For example, you can’t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo.


Also, you must include:

  1. A complete release of Instagram by each participant;

  2. An acknowledgement that the promotional contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Instagram.

Twitter


You can create a promotional contest on Twitter offering prizing for following a designated account, posting updates using your #contestname or your #companyname, or for tweeting a particular update.


Twitter requires that your contest rules include the following:

  1. A rule discouraging the creation of multiple accounts. For example, “anyone found to be using multiple accounts to enter will be disqualified”.

  2. Avoid posting duplicate or very similar tweets. For example, avoid creating rules like “whoever re-tweets the most will win”.

  3. Ask people to mention your @username in their tweet so you can receive updates in your notifications timeline. Twitter also recommends using a #contestname or your #companyname.

QUEBEC RULES FOR CONTESTS AND SWEEPSTAKES


Quebec rules for publicity contests or sweepstakes also apply to contests or sweepstakes offered online. You must register with Quebec’s Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (the "Régie") and provide them with the following information:

1. File the publicity contest form with the Régie.

Where the total value of the prize offered exceeds $1000, the form must be filed at least 30 days before the contest. If the value is less than $1000 it must be filed at least 5 days prior.

2. Pay the fee.

3. Security

4. Contest rules

5. Contest winner

6. Language

Failing to comply with the provincial rules can lead to fines ranging from $50 to $75,000 based on various circumstances.


FEDERAL RULES FOR CONTESTS/SWEEPSTAKES


Other laws like the Competition Act and the Criminal Code apply to contests. You also need to consider compliance with Canadian privacy laws and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation.


Your contest rules need to contain some specific information. Create a set of short- and long-rules, the short-rules are what will appear in your post, and reference the long-rules (which can be posted on your website). Your rules should include:

  1. the number and approximate value of prizes;

  2. the regional allocation of prizes;

  3. information on the chances of winning;

  4. if it’s a contest of chance (i.e. you’ll choose a random winner from a pool of entries) then a skill-testing question;

  5. the last date to enter; and

  6. any fact that may materially affect a participant’s chances of winning.

Failing to comply with the Competition Act can lead to penalties upwards of $750,000 for an individual and $1,000,000 for a corporation for a first-time offence. Particularly, if a person engaged in conduct that goes against:

  1. providing adequate and fair disclosure about the number and approximate value of the prizes, their regional allocation, and any fact that can materially affect the chance of winning;

  2. if the distribution of the prizes is unduly delayed, and;

  3. if the selection is not made on a basis of skill or is made on a random basis.

The Criminal Code prohibits that a requirement that a product or service be purchased as the sole condition to enter a contest. Specify in your contest rules that no purchase is necessary. Otherwise, it may be classified as an illegal lottery under the Criminal Code. Should it be considered an illegal lottery, you may be found guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.


CONCLUSION


There's a lot of rules to consider. Understanding the interrelation between them and the laws is a complicated task. We can draft the required short- and long-form rules so that you can focus on the other details of your contest. Get in touch with us today.

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