A "misleading" holiday promotion on Walkers crisp packets advertised by Gary Lineker has been banned following dozens of complaints to watchdogs.
It emerged last week that just 800 holidays out of 20,000 available in the Walkers 'Spell and Go' promotion have been claimed in the competition that many crisp lovers say was virtually impossible to win.
Now the promotion has been banned by Advertising Standards Authority with Walkers told to ensure significant terms and conditions for all aspects of their future promotions are communicated to consumers.
Customers were offered 3,000 'category A' holidays for four people worth £4,000 each and 17,000 'category B' holidays for a group of four worth £1,500 each.
If Walkers had awarded all 20,000, they would have faced a bill of £12 million for the top holidays and £25.5 million for the 'B' locations - £37.5 million in total.
To win a holiday, entrants needed to spell one of the 26 set destinations using letters found in promotional packs. Each destination required one of the three letters C, D and K and during the promotion Walkers released at least 20,000 codes on promotional packs that corresponded to those letters.
But the ASA launched an investigation after receiving 112 complaints about the promotion that was advertised on TV as well as on Walkers own website plus its Twitter and Facebook pages.
The complainants believed that letters which were needed to spell out the holiday destinations and qualify for the prizes were being withheld.
Walkers Snacks said that all 26 destinations included at least one of the letters "C", "D", or "K" ("Type 1" letters), and they had ensured that "sufficient" quantities of those letters were in circulation along with sufficient numbers of the remaining "Type 2" letters to ensure that 20,000 holidays could be won.
The firm said that on average nine million promotional packs were printed daily, and that when they responded to the ASA in mid-June, the percentage of complaints that their consumer relations team had received, which related to missing digits in the codes, equated to 0.0005 per cent of the promotional packs printed.
Walkers explained that a 'Random Swap' function enabled participants to select a maximum of five letters they had collected and randomly swap them with letters in a pool of Type 2 letters allocated for that purpose. The swap was carried out automatically by a computer algorithm.
They added they could have made clearer how the Random Swaps operated and said they had taken action to include Type 1 letters in the pool of letters for the final week of the promotion.
Walkers Snacks said that a short-form version of the terms and conditions of the promotion was printed on each promotional pack, which clearly stated what consumers needed to do to enter, and which also included a note that full terms and conditions could be found on the promotional website.
They said that, up to mid-June, over 12.8 million valid codes had been entered by over 655,000 participants; all corresponding letters had been issued, including 98 letter "K", 278 letter "C" and 252 letter "D". They believed the total 628 of those Type 1 letters issued was in line with the ratio of forecasted wins they had estimated over the total life of the promotion, which ran until the end of July.
But an ASA spokesman said: "With regard to the Random Swaps mechanism, which was described in the website ad, we noted that the pool of letters allocated for that purpose consisted only of Type 2 letters.
"While we considered it unlikely that the existence of the Random Swaps mechanism would in itself influence a consumer's initial decision to participate in the promotion, we considered it likely that it would influence their decision to continue to purchase promotional packs of crisps, based on their understanding that when swapping a Type 2 letter it was possible to receive a Type 1 letter.
"We acknowledged Walkers had amended the Random Swaps function to include Type 1 letters before the promotion ended.
"However, we considered the original limitation of the Random Swaps mechanism to only Type 2 letters was a significant condition likely to influence a consumer’s decision and understanding about the promotion, and that the omission of that significant condition from the references to the Random Swap mechanism in the website ad was misleading and likely to cause unnecessary disappointment to consumers."
He added: "We told Walkers Snacks to ensure that in similar future promotions they ensured that significant conditions for all aspects of the promotion were communicated to consumers."