4WD Touring publisher wins prize dispute with unhappy subscriber

Carlisle Rogers, publisher of 4WD Touring Australia magazine, has won an appeal against the winner of a magazine competition, encouraging publishers to stand up for their principles to avoid a tarnished reputation.

Rogers’ magazine was sued in July last year by competition winner Grant Lawler, who had won a 2002 Toyota Landcruiser, a Pioneer camper trailer and a boat and outboard, in a magazine competition. It was said to be worth $150,000.

Rogers founded the publication in 2012, and had not had a problem with any competition until Grant Lawler

The competition, which ran from March 2015 to January 2016, was part of a subscription push for the magazine where magazine subscribers were entered into a competition for a range of prizes.

According to Rogers, the idea was whoever won the prize could literally begin ‘living the dream’. He said the majority of prizes were donated by sponsors.

“Since our inception nearly six years ago, we have run several dozen competitions ranging from medium-sized monthly comps to massive annual subscription drives. We have never had a single issue with any of these,” Rogers said.

However following the announcement he had won the competition and the ‘Ultimate Escape’ package, Lawler began to believe he had been misguided, arguing the prize was worth $30,000 less than expected. He appealed to Liquor and Gaming NSW which dismissed his concerns, before reaching out to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).  Rogers explained it was the Landcruiser which was argued to be overvalued.

For the majority of 4WD Touring Australia’s competitions, prizes are calculated based on recommended retail price and freight. In the case of the LandCruiser, restoration work – to the value of $17,500 – was carried out during the period. The calculation of the LandCruiser’s value was based on open market values, with allowance for mechanical expenses, freight, labour and provenance.

Lawler collecting his winnings in 2016

When the case was first appealed to the NCAT, Lawler won, and was initially awarded $25,000 in compensation.

A piece in the Daily Telegraph explained Gibson’s decision: “I conclude that a reasonable person would find that the Ultimate Escape package was valued considerably less than $150,000.

“My Lawler was entitled to hold reasonable expectations that if he was the winner of the promotion he would receive goods to the value of $150,000.”

Rogers explained: “In essence, it really came down to the definition of value. During the hearing, the tribunal member argued that the vehicle, plus all of the fitted accessories, had a promotional value of over $90,000. He did not believe it could be sold on the open market for this amount.

“I don’t think there’s a reasonable person in this country that believes one can load up a 4WD with aftermarket gear and get that money back, cent for cent, if he sells it. The member ruled, however, that a reasonable person would have been misled by the promotion, based on this discrepancy in defining value.”

Rogers said the competitions – which do help increase the magazine’s database – have very “strict guidelines” and how and what a company can promote.

“In NSW, Mr Lawler had previously approached both the NSW Liquor and Gaming Authority and the NSW Office of Fair Trading. Both of those organisations exonerated Escape Media after investigating his claims. He then approached the Civil and Administrative Tribunal. He demanded a cash settlement, and on several occasions threatened via email and text to ‘play this out on social media’ if I did not pay immediately.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, Rogers was left with a “five-figure legal bill”, but he told Mumbrella it was less than the cost of meeting Lawler’s demands.

He said of the result: “This has a few implications for our business and for others in this industry. Firstly, it pays to understand the entire legal framework of the Australian Consumer Law, including precedents and interpretations, before embarking upon a promotion. Common sense does not always prevail in the first instance, and lawyers are cheaper up front than out the back when something happens, however rare that may be.

“Secondly, I hope it reminds publishers who are doing the right thing to stand up for their principles when they are threatened.

4WD Touring Australia magazine is a monthly publication founded by Rogers in 2012. It aims to provide readers with travel photography, touring stories and reviews of tents, camper trailers and off road caravans.


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