Opinion

Want to be a millionaire? Just remember to read the small print

Published Date
May 2, 2023
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“Match any of the WINNING NUMBERS to any of YOUR NUMBERS to win PRIZE.” In rejecting a lottery player’s reliance on this term, the High Court allowed the small print to prevail.

Ms Parker-Grennan played an “instant win” game on the National Lottery website. The aim of the game was to match “your numbers” with the “winning numbers.” 

She matched the number 15, and the game notified her that she had won GBP10. However, she noticed that there was another match: the number 1. According to the website, this match attracted a prize of GBP1 million. Luckily she took a screenshot (reproduced below)

The National Lottery refused to pay. It said that a coding issue had caused an error in the game’s animations. Ms Parker-Grennan insisted that she had won GBP1 m, and applied for summary judgment. 

The terms of the game were accessible through hyperlinks and drop-down menus. One term stated that the outcome of each game was “predetermined” at the point the player pressed play. Another term allowed the National Lottery to invalidate a game if the prize claimed did not match their records. The records showed Ms Parker-Grennan winning a prize of GBP10. 

Ms Parker-Grennan argued that these terms had not been incorporated into the contract. All that mattered was the tagline: “Match any of the WINNING NUMBERS to any of YOUR NUMBERS to win PRIZE.” In that sense, she had done exactly what it said on the tin.

The court disagreed. In practice, websites use a variety of methods to impose their terms upon consumers. Applying general principles, these methods were sufficient to incorporate the terms into the contract. 

Any attempt to displace these principles was rejected. The court agreed that the incorporation of onerous or unusual terms requires signposting. However, there was nothing onerous or unusual about these terms. They were simply the rules of the game.

The court also rejected the argument that the terms created a “significant imbalance” under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.

Therefore, the application was dismissed.

Comment

The court demonstrated an awareness that consumers rarely read the “small print” of contracts they enter into. However, this did not prove decisive. Instead, the court placed weight on the hypothetical individual knowing that some “small print” defining the relationship between the parties would exist. 

As a result, the “simple, abbreviated” tagline relied on by the Ms Parker-Grennan meant very little contractually. 

Judgment: Parker-Grennan v Camelot(See also “With exclusion clauses and unfair terms the house doesn’t always win.”)

A scratchcard with a winning amount of GBP1

Always take a screenshot!

Content Disclaimer
This content was originally published by Allen & Overy before the A&O Shearman merger

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