Promotions with Receipt Validation in the USA; Legal Aspects

Sara F. Hawkins
Sara F. Hawkins
Many brands want to organize exclusive prize promotions for their customers and one way of doing this is asking users to upload a picture of their purchase receipt. With the new Validate Receipts app from Easypromos, it’s much easier to validate the receipts and thus the participation. The app uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to validate the purchase receipts automatically. That way, the promotion organizer can give direct prizes to the users when they sign up. But in some countries, asking consumers to make a purchase to enter a prize promotion, makes the promotion an illegal lottery. The United States is one of those countries.

So, how can we use promotions with OCR technology for receipt validation in these countries? We have asked attorney-at-law Sara F. Hawkins to shed some light on this question. Sara is an expert in internet law, sweepstakes and contests, website and app policies, contract review and negotiation, and trademark and copyright matters with 20 years of experience in the United States.

How to validate receipts in a digital promotion

With the Validate Receipts app, you ask users to upload their purchase receipts for the chance to win a prize. The OCR system scans the receipts and validates them automatically, based on the requirements you establish in the promotion. 

The OCR receipt validation can also be used in combination with other promotion types, for example Spin the Wheel. But you need to make sure that this is legal in the country/territory of the promotion. This way, you can create exclusive promotions for your customers, without having to validate hundreds or thousands of entries manually. It’s a good way to turn offline customers into online leads

Consideration in prize promotions in the US

A very important legal aspect of prize promotions in the United States is the concept of consideration. Consideration is anything of value to the sponsor or organizer of the promotion. But it is not only limited to paying or buying something to enter a prize promotion. 

In this instance where entrants would be validating a purchase receipt with the OCR technology, clearly, that is consideration. This is why having legal guidance for a prize promotion is important when using new technologies.

The OCR technology may be new to your customers but that learning curve is not deemed consideration. However, it’s a great opportunity to provide a tutorial for customers.

You can learn a lot more about prize promotions in the US in this other article by Sara F. Hawkins.

Adding an alternative means of entry

When planning an OCR promotion, having an alternative means of entry (AMOE) for those who don’t buy a product removes the requirement to make a purchase to participate. Having an AMOE also allows those who may have lost their receipt to participate, cultivating positive brand goodwill.

The AMOE should not require more work or effort for entrants, though you can require those individuals to mail in an entry form rather than utilize a smartphone application or promotion landing page. In addition, the AMOE should not require more information than needed. Furthermore, it should always provide a link to your company’s privacy policy explaining how their personal information will be stored and used.

How to ensure ​​equal dignity in prize promotions with OCR

When selecting a winner, all entrants, regardless of whether they entered using the OCR technology or using an AMOE, must have an equal chance of winning. To maintain equal dignity, those who bought a product should not have a better chance of winning a prize than those who did not buy something. Using an online entry gathering platform helps by aggregating all the data and allowing for a truly random selection from among all the entrants regardless of how they entered.

This means that for a prize promotion in the United States, you should only use the OCR feature to validate the receipts to avoid manual validation, and then enter all the users into a random draw.

Are you planning a prize promotion in the US where you want to validate receipts automatically? Contact our support team and we will help you set it up so you include an AMOE.

There are many things to take into account when organizing a digital promotion. This is why we always recommend seeking professional legal advice to not miss any important requirements.

To see the user experience of the OCR validation, you can try our Validate Receipt DEMOS.