OFT crackdown on costly phoneline scamPeople lured into making costly phone calls

29 June 2006

A company which conned consumers into thinking they'd won GBP 10,000 to lure them into calling a costly phone line has been forced to make a binding promise to stop ripping off the public.

Hertfordshire-based Sure to Win Ltd, which traded as The Prize Bank Consortium, distributed more than 1.1million mailings. These urged the recipient to quickly claim their GBP 10,000 prize by calling a line costing GBP 1.50 a minute, or sending a special text that cost GBP 7.50.

Almost 204,000 people called. As the average call lasted almost seven minutes, many spent more than more GBP 10. A further 30,000 sent the reverse-billed text.

Cheap pendant

But nearly everyone who responded was entitled to just a cheap 'diamond pendant'.

Participants also had to pay an additional 'packing and damage waiver charge' of either GBP 3.95 or GBP 6.95 to claim their prize - but this was hidden in a long list of small print on the back of the mailing.

The Office of Fair Trading said the mailings were misleading as they implied that the recipient had won GBP 10,000. Other Prize Bank Consortium mailings were also branded misleading for similar reasons.

The OFT has now obtained binding undertakings from the company 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 this, could lead to a jail sentence for contempt of court.