Reese’s $25,000 Sweepstakes May Violate State and Federal Laws

Image: YouTube screen grab via News Center Maine

Hershey, maker of the iconic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, may have violated state and federal laws in the promotion of its $25,000 sweepstakes. The packaging announcing the contest is emblazoned with the words “You could win $25,000.” But it’s what doesn’t appear on the outside of the package that has the company in hot water.

Namely, the advice “No purchase is necessary” is missing. In fact, the fine print on the front of the product reads “See details inside,” which clearly implies that the only way to learn more about the sweepstakes is to buy and open the candy. And that is a no-no.

As the Associated Press explains:

Sweepstakes are primarily governed by state laws, which require that no purchase is necessary to participate. A contest that requires a purchase is a lottery, which is subject to different rules.

Three federal agencies — Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Postal Service — also enforce laws governing sweepstakes depending on the type of promotion. The Postal Service requires mailed sweepstakes offers to make clear that no purchase is necessary, for example. The FTC doesn’t govern sweepstakes specifically, but has broad laws prohibiting “unfair and deceptive acts.”

Hershey has defended itself by claiming that its website contains full details of the promotion and that some packages have QR codes that link consumers to a page with more information. But the AP reports that packages of the candy that one of its reporters bought at a Michigan drugstore did not contain QR codes and that the store had no signage explaining the promotion.