Flash Rewards has been found to promote vouchers for popular brands that, for many, don’t materialise.
The US-based cashback and rewards company offers participants the chance to win various high-value vouchers for well-known brands, including Uber Eats, PayPal and Shein, requiring you to complete various tasks to claim the voucher.
Which? has found a number of issues with the scheme, prompting a warning for online deal hunters to be cautious.
Misleading Flash Rewards
Our snapshot investigation found that while some of the ads mention ‘paid participation required’, others don’t.
The tasks we looked at include downloading mobile games and getting to certain levels, completing surveys, and signing up for product and service subscriptions, including one for the on-demand TV streaming service Disney+.
In some of these tasks you may have to spend money to earn the deal. We spoke to some Flash Rewards users who confirmed this.
We think this could breach the Advertising Standards Agency’s (ASA) misleading advertising code. The ASA’s code outlines that ‘Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so’, which could apply to the Flash Rewards adverts where there’s no clear mention that you need to pay to participate to claim a voucher.
The way these offers are advertised by Flash Rewards could also be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, as some adverts could be found to create ‘the false impression that the consumer has already won, will win, or will on doing a particular act win a prize or other equivalent benefit’, when in fact ‘taking any action in relation to claiming the prize or other equivalent benefit is subject to the consumer paying money or incurring a cost’.
How do you get a Flash Rewards voucher?
To enter the rewards program, you need to register by entering your name, home address, phone number and email address. You then have 60 days to complete the tasks. The date starts from the completion of your first task.
When we tested this, we found that we were first asked three questions about our shopping habits. After that, we were asked 17 survey questions including:
- What is your current employment status?
- How often do you use your credit/debit card to make an online purchase?
- How do you pay for your energy bills?
To get the promised voucher, you need to complete several sponsored tasks. We spoke to some users of Flash Rewards and they confirmed that some offers have taken them weeks to complete.
We found that to receive a £750 voucher, for example, you must complete 20 tasks. Once you’ve completed the tasks, you can begin the reward claiming process which must be completed in 30 days and requires ID verification.
Shady social media advertising
Two Flash Rewards adverts have been previously removed from Facebook for violating its advertising policies.
The Flash Rewards ads we found could also be in breach of Facebook’s advertising policy which prohibits adverts that contain deceptive, false or misleading claims.
We shared the ads with Meta, Facebook’s parent company, and asked it to confirm whether the ads were in breach of its policy, but it hadn’t responded to our request at the time of publication.
Other adverts posted by Flash Rewards on Facebook show screenshots of Twitter users who had supposedly received a voucher for the online retailer Shein.
We investigated these Twitter accounts and found that when we tried to set up Twitter accounts ourselves, using these usernames shown in the adverts, both were still available, suggesting that these accounts don’t currently exist.
We also used popular Twitter username availability checker sites ‘BrandSnag’ and ‘iStaunch’ to see if these Twitter usernames existed and both were still available on these platforms.
Some of the ads appearing on social media promote the ease and speed at which you can claim a voucher, using statements such as: ‘Claim Up to £750 for a Summer SHEIN Haul This Week!’ and ‘Add £750 to Your PayPal App This Week!’
This may be in breach of the Advertising Standards Agency’s code clause: ‘If the price of one product depends on another, marketing communications must make clear the extent of the commitment the consumer must make to obtain the advertised price’. This is because, although the voucher isn’t for sale, there isn’t any mention of how long it will take to claim the voucher in the adverts we saw.
Which? contacted Uber Eats who confirmed that it doesn’t have any affiliation with Flash Rewards and didn’t agree to any joint promotions.
PayPal also told us that the Flash Rewards adverts aren’t affiliated with or sponsored by PayPal. Both brands confirmed that they will be making contact with Flash Rewards.
We contacted the popular online retailer Shein, but it didn’t respond to our request for comment.
Flash Rewards also advertises on TikTok. We looked at TikTok’s advertising policy and it prohibits ads that are ‘misleading, inauthentic and deceptive’. Which? contacted TikTok who told us it has permanently banned Flash Rewards’ TikTok account for violating its ‘Frauds & Scams’ policy.
Has anyone received a Flash Rewards voucher?
Flash Rewards UK has an average rating of three out of five stars on Trustpilot and, at the time of writing this, 53% of reviews were rated as ‘bad’ or ‘poor’.
It took one Flash Rewards user, who wishes to remain anonymous, three weeks in total to get a voucher, with the final deals at levels 4 and 5 costing her £15-£20 to buy or subscribe to something. She estimates that she spent £20-£30 in total, but when she completed all of the deals on the various levels she was told that the Shein voucher wasn’t available to claim.
Under its program requirements listed on its website, Flash Rewards states: ‘We may substitute a gift card of equal or greater value for another gift card or other merchandise of equivalent value for the Reward you earned.’
In this case, Flash Rewards used a third-party company called Tremendous to offer her an alternative voucher of her choice or a virtual visa prepaid card worth £750, which she chose.
Another Flash Rewards user Kelly Atwood signed up to earn a £750 Shein voucher and told us she received question after question from various companies regarding different offers. She eventually quit the process when she was asked for her bank and contact details.
The government is currently reviewing the regulation of online advertising under the Online Advertising Programme. We want online platforms and ad tech providers to have sufficient processes in place to prevent fraudulent and misleading adverts from appearing to users. This must be backed up by a statutory regulator with powers to crack down on the problem and prevent these adverts from appearing in the first place.
We’ve shared our findings and concerns about these adverts with the ASA.
We also contacted Flash Rewards about the potentially misleading and unlawful nature of its adverts.
Flash Rewards told us that, prior to Which? contacting them, it was in the process of revising adverts to make sure that they include ‘paid participation required’ disclosures. It also explained it had detected issues with the misleading use of tweets in adverts and has initiated enhanced protocols to ensure that all tweets, consumer comments and reviews are validated. It added that all social media adverts are clear and provide consumers with information about the material terms of its offers.
Flash Rewards told us that its adverts lead to its website and it believes that its website clearly and conspicuously discloses on the landing page and in multiple other places the material terms of the offer which include any paid participation requirement. Though it didn’t detail how the material terms of its offers are communicated through the social media adverts, it clarified that this website disclosure is visible before a consumer takes any steps, provides any personal information, or is asked to make a purchase. It also explained that it provides consumers with detailed explanations on its websites explaining that consumers provide their information in exchange for offers and rewards, such as gift cards.
Flash Rewards expressed that it makes material efforts to inform consumers that it isn’t a sweepstake, lottery site or provider of prizes.