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What are Automatic Sweepstakes Entries? Does Auto-Fill Count?

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Question: What are Automatic Sweepstakes Entries? Does Auto-Fill Count?
When I'm reading through sweepstakes rules, I sometimes see a line that prohibits automatic entries, but I'm not sure what this means. Will I be disqualified for using the automatic form filling feature of my internet browser? What about Roboform?
Answer:

Automatic Entries vs. Using Auto-Fill to Enter

Automatic sweepstakes entries are made by a company or a software program that enters people into sweepstakes without the entrants ever visiting the sweepstakes' sites. (Or they enter for you daily, when you only visit the sweepstakes' site the first time).

While this type of entry has advantages, such as reaching a target audience that wouldn't otherwise find their sweepstakes, other companies prohibit this type of entry because they only want people who have visited their websites to have the chance to win.

Roboform is a different type of service. Using Roboform, you still visit the sweepstakes' websites, you just don't have to type as much to fill out your form. The same holds true with the autofill option on your internet browser or various other auto-fill programs.

So Which Kinds of Automatic Entry Are Allowed?

Usually, when the sweepstakes rules say that automatic entries are not allowed, they mean the first type of entry: where a third party or a software program is entering for you, without you personally visiting the sweepstakes site each time.

However, there is no consensus among sweepstakes sponsors about what exactly an automatic sweepstakes entry is. A few companies do mean Roboform and browsers' autofill options when they make automatic sweepstakes prohibitions.

To decide whether sponsors are prohibiting autofill as well as automatic entry services, you need to read the rules closely. Usually, automatic sweepstakes prohibitions will look something like this:

The use of any automated launching or entry software or any other mechanical or electronic means that permits the participant to automatically register and/or enter repeatedly is prohibited and all such entries will be disqualified.
Source: Jose Ole Coolest Mom on Wheels Sweepstakes
Another variation looks like this:
Entries made through any robotic, automatic, mechanical, programmed or similar entry duplication method are ineligible and will be disqualified.
Source: Ace Hardware Holiday Wish List Rules

What's definitely prohibited by the rules above is the first type of that enters you into sweepstakes without you having to go to the sweepstakes site and fill out the form yourself. For example, if you wrote a program that automatically filled out and submitted a bunch of sweepstakes entries for you while you washed the car or made breakfast, it would definitely fall under the automatic sweepstakes rules.

For the most part, the autofill feature of your browser is not considered automatic entry. After all, you visit the site, you see the advertising, you have the opportunity to explore the sponsor's offerings in more depth. What difference does it make to the sponsor if you type in the information or not? While specific sponsors may disagree, most do not consider an entry completed with autofill to be an automatic entry.

The exception comes when the rules look something like this:

Every submission must be manually keystroked and manually entered by the individual participant and repetitive automated electronic submission of entries is specifically disallowed.
Source: Circuit City Drive to 65 Sweepstakes Rules
In this case, you have to type everything in yourself, no mechanical assistance allowed.

In short, if you wanted to be absolutely sure to never, ever fall under the automatic entry rules, you should type every entry that includes automatic prohibitions in their rules by hand.

However, if you do that, you will be filling out by hand a lot of entries that would have been perfectly allowable with the assistance of autofill or Roboform, which will dramatically slow down your entry times.

In my personal opinion, because there is no way to tell for sure which sponsors really don't like form-fillers, the small chance of being disqualified from a very few sweepstakes where the sponsors disapprove of that kind of software is worth the benefit of being able to enter many more sweepstakes. I use the Roboform form filling program to enter all sweepstakes that do not specify that entries must be manually keystroked.

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