Puerto Rico is Calling
Nothing ventured, nothing gained . . . The early bird gets the worm . . .You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink . . . Sweepstakes open to legal residents of the 50 United States (including District of Columbia), excluding Puerto Rico. Alright, so the last statement isn’t an expression that is known or accepted “across the board.” But, in the world of promotions, excluding Puerto Rico from national sweepstakes is, well . . . “par for the course” (that’s the last one, I promise). And for good reason.
Puerto Rico’s sweepstakes rules and regulations have historically presented a number of challenges for advertisers wishing to run a national sweepstakes with a reasonable level of consistency. Rules requiring that sweepstakes terms be provided in Spanish, that a notary be present at each drawing, registration and the posting of local bonds, disclosure of the complete rules in advertising, to name a few, have forced advertisers to either set up different procedures for Puerto Rico or exclude the territory altogether. As a result, Puerto Rico residents have more often than not lost out on the ability to participate in national sweepstakes. That should no longer be the case.
As of November 27, 2009, Puerto Rico officially rolled out the red carpet to national sweepstakes promotions with substantial modifications to its rules and regulations. The new rules not only bring Puerto Rico substantially in line with the rules in the 50 states, but a number of ambiguities that continue to exist in most states have now been favorably resolved in Puerto Rico. Some of the more important changes include:
- Publication of full rules is met via posting on the internet;
- So long as the rules are made available on the internet (or through other permissible methods), abbreviated rules are sufficient for advertisements;
- Rules must be published in the same language used in the advertising for the sweepstakes. So, if the advertising is in English alone, the rules only need to be in English;
- “No purchase required” is not contradicted by requiring entrants to send in self-addressed/stamped envelops, visit a store, or pay standard text messaging or internet access charges;
- Certification of drawings and the presence of a Notary Public at the drawing are no longer required;
- Confusing rules on the disclosure of odds of winning have been eliminated.
A couple of caveats. First, these updates generally do not apply to skill contests. Second, while the rules regarding modification or suspension of a sweepstakes are better, they still require advertisers to petition the Department of Consumer Affairs before doing so; even so, requests are treated as approved if the Department fails to respond within 10 business days.
Overall, the changes to Puerto Rico’s sweepstakes rules pretty much eliminate the obstacles to letting Puerto Rico’s residents participate in national sweepstakes promotions. Indeed, these changes indicated a clear desire on the part of Puerto Rico to join the game (of chance, that is).