The Children’s Advertising Review Unit recommended that Dave & Buster’s discontinue “free” claims in future promotions where any purchase is required.

CARU is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

In this case, a 15-second commercial for the restaurant chain announced that children could play free video games until 3 p.m. at Dave & Buster’s restaurants. At issue in CARU’s review was the following claim: “Just tell us ‘kids rule’ and you can play video games free until 3!”

CARU noted there were several substantial and material limitations on the claim, which were disclosed in a small, difficult to read video super.

The super stated,“Free play is only valid with the same day $20 Power Card purchase or reload. Valid only on non-redemption games, July 7—July 18, 2014. Not valid with other offers, including Half Price Games, Wednesday, Eat and Play Combo or Special events. Promotion is only valid Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday until 3 p.m.”

CARU noted in its decision that $20 “is a substantial charge and neither the child nor the parent, who presumably would have to pay the fee, would consider this free.”

Following its review, CARU determined that the promotion violated CARU’s guidelines. CARU recommended that in future promotions the advertiser refrain from making such a claim unless something is truly free.

Dave & Buster’s, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company was disappointed in CARU’s decision and maintains that it clearly communicated the offer. 

“While we disagree, we will accept the decision and agree to modify or remove the ‘Free Video Games’ offer from this TV spot in the future,” the company says. 

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