Online Sweepstakes, Games, & Contests: Navigating Legal Issues and Pitfalls

Online sweepstakes, games, and contests have become increasingly popular thanks to the widespread use of social media and iOS applications. Companies, however, often overlook the need to include proper documentation and guidelines required by state or federal laws and regulations. Moreover, today’s new technology often allows for web/app users to submit cloned entries or otherwise circumvent online rules. Likewise, the collection of personal information for sweepstakes, online games, and contests may trigger a variety of entirely different legal issues, often unbeknownst to the host company. Care should be taken before launching new sweepstakes, games, or online contests.

One of the biggest challenges with online sweepstakes and games is the state-by-state differences in rules and regulations. Before launching a new sweepstake, online contest, or game, the host should verify that it complies with the laws in every state where it is made available. This often requires an analysis of the laws of each state since many sweepstakes, games, and contests are made available to residents of all 50 states given the nature of the Internet and iOS/Android applications. Some states require registration for certain kinds of contests.

In addition to state laws, hosts of online games need to verify compliance with federal regulations and laws such as the Children Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), and similar privacy laws. Given the global nature of the Internet, attention should be given to whether compliance with foreign laws is needed or whether access to the Internet sweepstake, game, or contest is limited to US participants. The laws of European countries, for example, provide for more stringent privacy restrictions than US ecommerce law.

While companies may be able to achieve compliance with state and federal regulations on their own, retaining an ecommerce attorney is advisable due to the complexity of the legal landscape. The first step is to evaluate the associated promotional material and online rules to ensure no violations of federal and state laws, including online privacy laws. Next, the ecommerce attorney will likely analyze the entire framework of the contest, game, or sweepstake to ensure overall compliance with both state and federal law as it applies to the client. As mentioned, this may require registration in certain states and posting bonds. Lastly, the attorney will draft overall guidelines as a reference for use with any future promotions. These guidelines can be used to reduce costs for future online sweepstakes, contests, and games.

Disclaimer – As with any discussion of legal topics, this article is intended to be educational only, and is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it provide legal advice or form an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Please seek legal counsel before making any decisions. Also, please note that this article will likely not be updated, so the law and circumstances may have changed by the time you have read this article.

3 Legal Issues You Really Should Get a Lawyer To Help You With

For some, the legal profession may seem like a caliginous area which is as inaccessible as Area 51. This is due to the level of education usually required to be qualified as a lawyer and the sheer scale of paperwork and legal tomes needed to be navigated in order to undertake even the most straight forward of legal cases.

What some people have started to do though is to try and take on legal cases themselves in an attempt to save money. This can also be due to the amount of court room dramas shown on television which make the job of a lawyer seem as easy as having a moment of inspiration and delivering an impassioned speech. In reality every case needs a massive amount of skill and research and without this some legal situations can cause financial and personal disasters for the people who try to play lawyers.

Buying A House

Trying to deal with the buying or selling of a house without a lawyer is madness. Without a lawyer to deal with the transfer of money, deeds, to cover all contracts and paperwork and to keep their eye open for legal issues, you could find yourself in a lot of hot water and without a house. This is especially important when buying a home abroad as it can often be impossible for the buyer or seller to be in the country to check up on any problems.

Set Up Business Abroad

This is the case when setting up a business abroad too. It is advisable to have both legal teams in your home country and in your destination country to negotiate the legalities of transferring bank accounts, covering taxation concerns and dealing with property as any failings from a paperwork point of view could have major repercussions for you, your business and your staff. Having a strong legal team with you for the duration with experience in setting up business abroad is extremely important. In the setup of Cyprus offshore companies for instance it is important to gain insight into the business incentives which can be taken advantage of. With a bit more inside information you take full advantage of the benefits of Cyprus company incorporation.

Police Complaints

Making a complaint against a police officer requires you to be completely covered from a legal point of view or you could be found guilty of libel or slander. When making a complaint you could end up ruining an officer’s career so you need to be 100% certain of their guilt or at least make sure you have a good case before you start making statements to the press.

Avoiding Potential Legal Issues in Your Medical Practice

All health care professionals including advanced practice clinicians (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) want to prevent any potential legal actions related to the excellent care they provide.

Let me first start off by saying, I am not an attorney and I don’t play one in real life, on TV or on the internet. I had never even been in a real courtroom until recently. However, back in 2006 became involved in an investigation of another health care professional that has only recently gone to trial, and have spent a good amount of time researching the topic for past and future presentations. Thus, I’d like to share just a few tips that you can take to protect yourself as you continue to provide excellent care to your patients.

Documentation:

First and foremost, pay attention to your documentation! Make sure it tells the story, discusses your findings, your assessment and your plan. Whoever is reading the note, should be able to understand how you got to your proposed plan AND be able to pick up where you left off, making any necessary adjustments.

Don’t assume that someone can read your mind and don’t assume you will remember 1, 6 or 52 weeks later. While not everyone is able to complete each and every chart in the room before the patient leaves, make serious attempts at getting your charting done as soon as it’s feasible. Memory fades over time. Need a refresher on documentation? Here is a primer on documentation published by CMS-(The Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services) Search their site for “Documentation Guidelines for Evaluation and Management (E/M) Services”

Coding and Billing:

You may not be doing the billing in your office, but chances are you are responsible for coding the level of the visit. It’s your responsibility to be aware of the requirements for level of care regardless if your CPT code reflects the work and acuity of the patient, or the time spent. Make sure you have documented accordingly. If you need to brush up on your E&M coding skills, you can get some great free education at http://www.emuniversity.com. Coding the wrong level of service, or even “incident to” inappropriately, can land you in hot water.

Medication Errors:

Believe it or not, medication errors continue to be quite common. In fact, according to the 2009 NP claims study*, more than 80% of medication errors are prescription-related and 1/3 of those involved prescribing the WRONG medication.

Make sure you check and double check your prescriptions for spelling, dose, indication, side effects and contraindications. If you are using any of the electronic prescribing tools available, it should help, but they are not foolproof. Take advantage of the various tools you can use in the room with you including those on your PDA or smartphone. Epocrates, my favorite is only one of the various tools available.

Protect Yourself:

If you have legal concerns, it’s always best to check with an attorney who is familiar with health care, advanced practice issues, and is in your state. Make sure you have appropriate liability coverage. All healthcare providers today have a tremendous responsibility to do the best they can do, often under less than ideal situations. Despite this, we continue to do our best to provide the best level of care we can for our patients and clients. These suggestions can help protect you (and your patients) even years into the future.

*2209 NP Claims Study can be found at http://www.nso.com Once there, search for the following search terms to see the report: “2009 NP claims study”