Cagey Consumer

America West Flaunts Laws Against Lotteries

When "60 Minutes" reports that a few senior citizens didn't believe the promises from Publishers Clearing House that "no purchase is required", the Feds swarm in.

At the same time, the FTC chooses to turn a blind eye to certain blatantly illegal lotteries, such as the latest promotion by America West Airlines.

America West promised customers that they would receive a discount between 5% and 50% of the published ticket price, with the amount to be determined only after the ticket was purchased. According to information presented on the America West web site, this is at least the third time they have run this promotion. The current promotion ends February 20, 2000. (A previous promotion ran for the one week period ending November 28, 1999.)

Calls to America West were met with assurances that the attorneys in their legal affairs office had reviewed the promotion, while the clerks answering the FTC phones were slow to recognize why America West's promotion would fit the definition of a lottery if they were providing the discounts as promised.

Here's a simple review of the elements required for a lottery:

  1. the element of chance -- in this case, explicitly stated in the rules
  2. a prize -- reduced-price tickets
  3. a price -- payment or other consideration required to participate
The following link provides details on the difference between a legal sweepstakes and an illegal lottery:
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February 18, 2000