If you’ve ever won something, you know it’s a great feeling; whether it’s a meat tray at your local bowls club or $5 on an Instant Scratch-Its. But what if you went to hand in what you thought was your winning ticket and were refused your prize without an obvious reason why? In 1999, this was the reality for thousands of Australians due to a marketing error at McDonald’s.
In 1998 McDonald’s ran a promotion called “McMatch & Win” for the first time. Similarly, to the current McDonald’s Monopoly promotions, the aim of the game was to match tickets to spaces on a monopoly board to win. The stakes were certainly high as prizes ranged from cheeseburgers to brand-new cars.
To ensure the right number of prizes were won, only a certain number of ‘control tickets’ were printed. For example, to win a car you had to get both ‘Mayfair’ and ‘Park Lane’; McDonalds printed only four ‘Park Lane’ tickets, but millions of ‘Mayfair’ tickets were put into circulation.
The game was a spectacular success in 1998, but when they ran it again in 1999, McDonald’s switched the control tickets; this time only four ‘Mayfair’ tickets were printed, but millions of ‘Park Lane’ tickets were put into circulation.
What Mcdonald's never considered was the previous year’s tickets would still be in circulation.
To the naked eye, the 1998 and 1999 McMatch & Win tickets were virtually identical. Mcdonald's claim they were embedded with codes, but the customers could not see them, meaning thousands came to claim their prizes but were denied by the fast-food giant.
The stage was set for a factual and legal dispute as to who was responsible for those tickets getting back into circulation.
It was a daring feat for Shine considering the firm had never attempted a class action before.
“It was new, it was different, and nobody was really doing it in Queensland at the time, so we wanted to be a first mover. And like anything with first movers, it’s a new challenge, it’s daunting, it’s risky, but I was up for that challenge.”
More than 5,000 McDonalds customers joined Shine’s class action. At the time, this case was the largest piece of litigation that the firm had ever contemplated.
Despite Shine’s bravery and hard work, the case was ultimately lost; the judge ruled in McDonald’s favour, costing the firm millions.
Although the judge ruled in favour of McDonalds and we didn’t achieve the result we worked hard for, our team displayed resilience, fearlessness and perseverance. We took a risk and were determined to stand by our clients in the pursuit of justice. These qualities have since become the backbone of our DNA today.
“As we’ve learnt over 30 years of being litigators, you dust yourself off, you get up, and you fight another day.”