Competition scams should be regulated

Q Earlier this year I came across a special offer being operated by a local trader that advertised a free prize draw. There was a simple multiple choice question (which I could easily answer) and the prize was a modest range of shooting accessories of different brands.

I called the number on the advert, followed the instructions and pressed all the buttons in order to register the answer and my entry.

I have to admit I then promptly forgot about the competition until recently I had reason to check my phone bills in order to deal with another query I had. I was astonished to discover that the number I had called to enter the competition was a premium rate number and that I had been charged quite a lot for what was only a short call. I feel cheated and while it probably isn’t enough to warrant a formal complaint it does make me wonder whether this sort of activity is in order.

Brandon Griffiths, Ross-on-Wye

A You are right to be concerned. We see these sorts of competitions frequently nowadays right across the media, especially on TV.

The “competition” comprises a basic question with multiple choice answers all but one of which are so obviously wrong that the actual answer is revealed almost at a glance without any real skill.

Generally schemes like this are subject to regulation and, more importantly, licensing. Equally, “free” prize draws must be just that – free! This does not mean that you must not have to purchase some form of ticket, it also applies to the method of communication used to enter. There must be no additional cost involved in the communication over what it would normally cost to communicate at a normal rate either by post, telephone or by other means. The use of premium rate numbers for entries, therefore, would be deemed to be a “payment to enter”, and therefore render the scheme a lottery that is subject to regulation under the Gambling Act 2005. Stuart Farr

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