Court of Appeal confirms terms of lottery instant win game were enforceable

March 14, 2024

The Court of Appeal has issued its ruling in the long-running saga of  Ms Parker Grennan v Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd [2024] EWCA Civ 185.

Facts of case

The appellant P played an instant win game on the National Lottery website, which was operated by Camelot at the time. The game display screen displayed the message ‘match any of the WINNING NUMBERS to any of “YOUR NUMBERS” to win PRIZE’.

When P opened the account, she was required to accept various terms and conditions, which she did by clicking to tick a box to ‘accept terms and conditions’ and clicking ‘confirm’. There was a link to the account terms at the bottom of the page, which in turn contained hyperlinks to other terms and conditions and resources.

A random number generator pre-determined the outcome of the game. The pre-determined outcome in this case was a win of £10. The software included animations, which, if enabled, meant that the winning pair of numbers would turn white and flash in a green circle.

P played the game with the animations enabled. The random number generator selected a number corresponding with prize tier 27, which meant that her ticket had won her £10. After the final number was clicked, her screen came up with an image with two flashing number 15s (the bottom one displayed a prize of £10 underneath it) and a message at the top of the screen saying “CONGRATULATIONS! You have won £10”.  However, she noticed that there also appeared to be two matching number 1s in the upper and lower sections of the screen (although they were not flashing), and 1 was the number to which the top prize of £1 million was ascribed. She took a screenshot.

The cause of the display of the matching number 1s was a coding error in the Java software responsible for the animations. Camelot’s database recorded a win of £10; Camelot credited the account with £10 and told P that she had won £10. P applied for summary judgment, claiming £1m.

First instance decision

The first instance court held that:

  • The terms were properly incorporated;
  • None of the terms was contrary to the Unfair Terms In Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (the predecessor legislation to the Consumer Rights Act 2015).
  • P’s arguments as to the proper construction of the terms were rejected.

P appealed the first instance decision.

Court of Appeal decision

The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal.  It said that when a court is considering the incorporation of contractual terms, it needs to consider if the operator has carried out reasonable steps to adequately bring the various terms and conditions to the player’s attention. There was no necessity for the operator do “everything in its power” to require a user to read the terms.

Consumers can be given sufficient opportunity to read the terms by providing hyperlinks to the terms or a drop-down menu. P had argued that consumers should be forced to scroll through the terms before being able to click “accept” but the Court of Appeal said that this was likely to cause the player to give up, or scroll to the end and accept without reading the terms.

The first instance court was correct to find that anyone playing an instant win game would expect there to be rules governing how the game was played and how a win was determined. These were in the Game procedures, which explained that the outcome of a play was pre-determined. There was nothing in Camelot’s terms which was unduly onerous or unusual.  Therefore, there was no requirement for Camelot to specifically signpost any of the terms to incorporate them.

The court also considered if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, any term caused “a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer”. According to the Court of Appeal, Camelot’s terms were clearly drafted and well signposted through hyperlinks. Its rules made clear that the prize was the one that showed in Camelot’s database. The Court did note that the dispute resolution clause, which provided that Camelot could conduct a validation exercise in relation to claimed prizes, did create an imbalance between the parties, but this was not contrary to the requirement of good faith. Anyway, Camelot did not need to rely on this clause because P had not won £1 million under its rules.

P tried to rely on the phrase ‘Match any of the WINNING NUMBERS to any of YOUR NUMBERS to win PRIZE’ as the only relevant contractual term. The Court of Appeal disagreed.  It said that if P had read the game procedures, it would have been clear to her that to win the prize, the matching numbers had to turn white and flash, the amount of the win would be displayed.  In any event, this should have been obvious to a player even without reading the game procedures.

The rules of the game set out that the outcome of the play was that recorded in Camelot’s database, which was a win of £10. Therefore, P did not win £1 million.