BBB National Programs Archive

CARU Recommends Dave & Buster’s Discontinue Play-for-Free Advertising Claims Following Review

New York, NY – Nov. 3,  2016  – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has recommended that Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc., discontinue claims that children can play the video games “Luigi’s Mansion” and “Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix” for free, given that the offer requires consumers to make a $10 purchase. The company has said that the advertising at issue will not run again.

CARU, an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation, monitors advertising directed to children in all media and across all platforms. CARU is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

In this case, CARU reviewed a child-directed commercial that featured several children playing video games and having fun. Against that visual, a voiceover stated twice that gameplay was free. The first voiceover stated, “Play “Luigi’s Mansion” and “Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix” free!” and the second stated, “Mario and Luigi have never been bigger or better. Play “Luigi’s Mansion” and “Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix” free!” During the first voiceover, the print message “Play Both Free,” appeared in a large, bold font that covered the entire screen.

A small video super disclosed the following:

“Offer valid with same day $10 Power Card purchase or reload and expires by end of day. Offer valid through April 10th. Offer subject to change. Limit one offer per person, per Power Card per day. Valid at participating stores only. See store for details.”

Following its review of the advertising at issue, CARU determined that the super contradicted the main message of the claim by imposing a condition of payment.  Children would actually have to purchase or reload a $10 Power Card on the day they wanted to play “Luigi’s Mansion” and “Mario Kart Arcade Grand Prix” for free.  CARU noted that $10 is a substantial charge and neither the child nor an accompanying adult would consider it “free.”

CARU noted that it was pleased the advertiser had discontinued the advertising at issue. CARU further noted that it had reached a similar determination in a previous review of the advertiser’s claims. Going forward, CARU said, it will “look closely at any … future advertisements that contain similar misleading ‘free’ claims, and if necessary, will refer them to the appropriate government agency.”

Dave & Buster’s, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company accepts CARU’s decision. “Going forward, the company said, “we will not characterize the game play as ‘free’ if there are any restrictions that require any payment.”