O’Brien v MGN Ltd [2002] CLC 33

Incorporation of contract terms; publication of rules relating to newspaper scratch cards


Mr O’Brien participated in a newspaper scratch card game and satisfied the criteria to win £50,000. The newspaper intended there to be one or two winners per week but due to an administrative mistake, some 1472 entrants met the criteria and claimed the prize. The rules of the competition were not published in the newspaper every day and they included a provision whereby if there was more than one winner, a prize draw would be held to decide who got the prize. Mr O’Brien brought an action to recover £50,000.


Mr O’Brien argued that as the rules of the competition had not been published in the newspaper on the day he purchased it and entered the competition, they had not been successfully incorporated into the contract between himself and the newspaper. He contended the newspaper had not done enough to bring the rules to the attention of the entrants and, therefore, as he had satisfied the criteria, he was entitled to recover the £50,000. The newspaper contended that the words ‘Normal Mirror Group Rules Apply’ was sufficient to incorporate the terms into the contract by reference. They argued the rules were published in the paper from time to time and they were available at their offices and, as such, Mr O’Brien had sufficient notice of them.


Mr O’Brien’s claim was unsuccessful. The contractual rules had been successfully incorporated into the agreement by reference on the day he purchased the paper and entered the competition. The paper had taken sufficient steps to being the rules to the attention of entrants and the rules relating to the prize draw were not particularly unusual or outlandish.