The Court of Appeal has dismissed the claimant's appeal against the judgment in Parker-Grennan v Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd.

A player brought a claim for £1 million against Camelot.  As well as the National Lottery, Camelot operates an online "instant win" game.

The claimant P bought a £5 ticket for a particular instant win game. Prizes ranged from £5 to £1M. She had to match a number in one section of the screen with with a number in another section. The claimant was told she had won £10. This was because the number “15” was matched and it was flashing white, and the prize for that combination was £10. However, P could also see that she had also matched the number “1”, the prize for which was £1 million. There was no corresponding message to the effect that she had won that amount, and no flashing lights. However, she took a screenshot and said she was entitled to that prize. Camelot refused to pay out, saying that P had not won the £1 million and that a coding issue had generated an error in the Java software responsible for the animations. The £10 prize was the one the computer had “predetermined” would be won in conjunction with the ticket P purchased. P sought summary judgment but the first instance court dismissed the claim.

P appealed to the Court of Appeal, who dismissed the claim again.  In so doing, the Court made some useful comments about contracting and incorporation of terms online.

P had raised three issues: 

  • whether Camelot's terms were incorporated in the contract between her and Camelot;
  • whether some of those terms were unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999; and 
  • as a matter of construction of the contract between P and Camelot, whether she won £1 million or only £10.

Surprisingly, according to the judgment, the Court of Appeal has not previously considered the incorporation of standard terms and conditions into contracts made online.  

The Court of Appeal held, among other things, that it agreed with the first instance judge that there was nothing onerous or unusual about the various contractual provisions on which Camelot sought to rely. Further, the network of contractual provisions on which Camelot relied were clearly drafted and well signposted through the various hyperlinks. P had a real opportunity of becoming acquainted with the terms of the contract before she clicked the ‘I Accept’ button. 

P had argued that any tick box should come after the terms, but the Court of Appeal rejected this, saying it doesn't necessarily mean the consumer will read them.  It also emphasised that a tick box approach will not always work, depending on how easily the consumer can find the relevant terms to read.

In this case the language used in the terms was plain and not unduly long, complex or onerous. However, the court did comment that many consumer-facing terms and conditions are "complex and opaque and not, in truth, designed to be read or understood. These may contain, lurking within their hidden depths, many pitfalls highly disadvantageous to the consumer". 

Last year, Ofcom carried out a review of video sharing platforms' terms and conditions and found that they could take a long time to read and required advanced reading skills to understand.  The Court of Appeal said that a review of the law might be needed.  Businesses should ensure that their terms are clear and well signposted, especially if a term is more onerous and/or surprising.

 In the meantime, Ms Parker lost out on her jackpot and won £10.