Facebook recently relaxed its rules on contests and promotions to make it easier for businesses to promote their products. While many businesses welcome the simplified measures, there are legal aspects to consider.
Businesses are finally able to give away products directly through their Facebook fan pages. Promotions and contests can be set up by simply posting a product and interested fans can take part by simply liking, commenting or posting a reply.
The change means that businesses no longer have to work together with a third party to develop an app in order to run a competition.
It is expected that the rule change will lead to a rash increase in the number of competitions, meaning that Facebook online marketing branch has become more attractive.
However, there are still some fundamental legal questions which businesses need to be aware of, if they want to avoid falling into difficulties.
Here is an overview of the most pressing matters:
Participation rules must be accessible and it must be made clear that Facebook is not involved in the organisation of the any competitions.
This was simple under the previous system, as businesses could ensure that before accessing the relevant third-party app, participants ‘ticked’ a box signifying that they had read and accepted the contest rules. Issues of data protection and how personal data would be handled could also be easily regulated within the framework of an external app.
There is currently no technical capability for obtaining participants’ agreement to contest rules or to terms and conditions. Until Facebook provides such technical capability, businesses will need to search for an alternative solution.
One possibility could be to display the competition rules prominently below the contest description. In such a form the rules should state that the participant automatically accepts the terms by taking part.
Informing the winner
It remains prohibited for businesses to contact individuals via direct private messages. Posting the name of the winner is also not permitted. Only the winner’s initials may be published.
This makes contests conducted by submitting ‘likes’ difficult as the winner is not automatically informed when a reply wall entry is made. Under the third-party app model, contestants were able to enter their e-mail address in order to receive notifications.
Re-posting to gain exposure
It should be remembered that it is not permitted to require the participant to re-post the relevant competition details on their own personal Facebook profiles in order to gain exposure.
Other legal considerations
There are also rafts of legal provisions which regulate contests in Germany generally. Some of them are:
- Contests which require participants to pay a fee to play must be licenced (§ 284 German Criminal Code)
- The chances of winning may not be made dependent on the purchase of a product (§ 4(6) German Unfair Competition Act)
- Participants’ personal data must be handled legally and only collected with their permission
On first glance it seems Facebook has made it easier for online businesses to arrange contests via the social network.
The simplification of Facebook’s rules, however, does not free online businesses from their legal obligations. It is therefore highly advisable to seek comprehensive legal advice before hosting a competition or promotion directly on Facebook. Even a small oversight can have significant legal consequences. Our expert legal team is available to answers any questions you may have.