OFT raps scammersPhone scam conned thousands of 'winners'

29 November 2005

The company behind a scam which lured thousands into calling an expensive phone line has been forced to give legal undertakings to curb its behaviour.

Chester-based Phoenix Media(UK)Ltd, which trades as Techtron Games, distributed 1.7 million misleading flyers in the national press. The flyers contained a prize code and encouraged recipients to call hotlines costing up to GBP 11.25 to claim a prize.

More than 16,700 called. But the real winner was Phoenix Media. Although the flyers suggested the recipient had won GBP 25,000, nearly everyone received a holiday cruise voucher which had major restrictions. It had also been misleadingly described as a 'Caribbean cruise'.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) considered that the flyers were misleading. It obtained binding undertakings from Phoenix Media to stop it from publishing misleading adverts for premium-rate prize promotions.

If the company breaches the undertakings, the OFT can seek a court injunction. Failure to obey a court injunction could lead to proceedings for contempt of court, and a jail sentence.

John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, said:'These advertisements were highly misleading and encouraged consumers to make expensive phone calls in the hope of receiving a major cash prize. The OFT will continue to crack down on advertisers who make misleading claims which harm consumers' interests and discredit legitimate marketing techniques'.