Kerry Southworth, solicitor in Harrison Drury’s corporate and commercial team, looks at the recent Zavvi error and the need for good competition terms and conditions.
While many football fans will have been buoyed by Liverpool and Tottenham’s recent successes in reaching the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid, one business was left rather deflated from an ill-timed football competition error.
Zavvi, an online retailer specialising in collectibles, had recently launched a competition in partnership with Mastercard, offering two tickets for the Champions League final, as well as travel and accommodation.
Customers wishing to enter the competition were required to make a purchase at zavvi.com using their Mastercard between 23rd April 2019 to 6th May 2019 and enter their email address on the competition landing page.
What’s happened and what was the response?
Instead of only its chosen competition winner being notified, many customers (and in some case former customers) of Zavvi were reporting to have received messages from Zavvi that they had won the prize, for reasons Zavvi has put down to “human error”. This led to many people believing they had won the coveted prize.
Many of those individuals who received the notification have expressed their dissatisfaction with some asking on social media for recompense for the emotional damage this has done to them.
While it is unclear whether any of these requests will become formal claims against the company, Zavvi will undoubtedly be looking to its competition terms and conditions for its legal obligations.
Competitions, particularly those that go wrong, tend to generate a lot of negative publicity, and it is important that businesses have robust terms and conditions to assist them in the event of any issues.
What could Zavvi’s liability be?
In Zavvi’s case, we would expect close attention would be being paid to the limitation of liability clause in its competition terms and conditions. Unless “human error” or some other form of administrative problems were referred to in the limitation clause, it is unlikely that Zavvi will be able to rely on that clause to waive its responsibility for its error.
That said, there are a number of statutory tests of reasonableness and fairness in contract law and it is unlikely that any legal proceedings based on this error will be successful.
However, this may not be enough to detract the many disgruntled individuals from seeking legal redress and Zavvi may still find itself having to argue it is not liable for any damages or specific performance in connection with the error.
What are the lessons for other businesses when creating competition terms and conditions?
For any business, this is where a carefully drafted set of terms and conditions can provide clarity to all parties about the limitations on the company’s liability and rights of the customer.
It is therefore incredibly important that when setting up a competition, businesses need to be savvy and seek appropriate legal advice to protect themselves.
While not every possible accidental outcome can be foreseeable, it is important to carefully draft terms and conditions to allow for administrative and human errors to be included in limitation of liability clauses.