Rail firm serving Worksop breached advertising rules after axing competition with £5,000 prize

Train operator East Midlands Railway – which runs services in and out of Worksop – has been censured by advertising watchdogs over a cancelled competition.

EMR launched a competition in February, inviting people to submit ideas to help it ‘Build Back Better’, with the winning entry receiving £5,000.

However, after a complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Authority in the belief the contest had been cancelled, asking if it broke the advertising code.

And in its ruling today, the ASA said EMR had breached the Code of Non-broadcast Advertising.

Train operator East Midlands Railway has been censured by advertising watchdogs over a cancelled competition.

The ASA said: “EMR told us the competition was a contractual obligation under their franchise agreement, conceived prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They said they received a high volume of what they felt to be poor quality entries and were not satisfied any would be suitable to be implemented. They said they were also starting to see the financial impact of the pandemic on UK rail services at that point.

“EMR stated the combination of those two factors led to their decision to withdraw the competition.”

EMR said it felt it was inappropriate to award the prize at a time when the railway was entirely funded by taxpayers due to the pandemic.

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However, upholding the complaint, the ASA said: “While we acknowledged the terms and conditions of the promotion stated they could cancel the competition, that did not absolve the advertiser of their obligation to comply with the Code.

“We noted the competition was launched in February, nearly a year into the pandemic, and therefore it would not have been outside of EMR’s control to anticipate challenges that might arise before deciding to go ahead.

It said the fact EMR had not identified any ideas suitable for implementation would not have prevented it awarding the prize to the idea chosen to be the best.

The ASA told EMR ‘to ensure they awarded prizes in future competitions as described in their marketing communications, to make sure promotions were conducted under proper supervision and to avoid causing unnecessary disappointment’.

An EMR spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the ruling and have taken on board the recommendations made.

“We have also confirmed we will not be progressing any submissions at this time. We would like to again thank all entrants for their submissions.”