Fine for 'unfair' Deal or No Deal phone-inChannel 4 says competition now complies with rules

10 August 2007

 

A close-up of a telephone cord a man is using to make a call.

Premium rate phone regulator Icstis has imposed a £30,000 fine over a competition on Channel 4 show Deal Or No Deal.

It found that entrants to the show's viewers' competition did not have an equal chance of winning, making it ‘intrinsically unfair’.

Early callers to the competition on the hit show, presented by Noel Edmonds, had more of a chance of being selected than later callers.

Service provider iTouch UK Ltd has been ordered to pay the fine.

Premium rate

Icstis also complained that although viewers were invited to call a premium rate number to enter a competition to win one of three sums of money, programme-makers already knew which cash prize would be won.

Viewers were shown three sealed boxes and informed that there is an amount of money hidden in each box, such as £2,000, £3,000 and £10,000.

But Icstis said: ‘It was the opinion of the Executive that at the point of calling viewers will consider that any one of the three amounts is available to be won and will enter the competition on this basis.

‘However, as the show is prerecorded, at the time when the invitation to call takes place, the programme makers are already aware of which cash prize will be won.’

Pre-recorded

The service provider said it was public knowledge that the show was pre-recorded.

But Icstis said there was no evidence that viewers in general were aware the show was not live.

Icstis concluded that, overall, the breaches taken together constituted ‘moderate consumer harm’.

Charity donation

Channel 4 said: ‘Channel 4's own review of its premium rate services uncovered the problem with the winner selection procedure, which meant earlier entrants had a statistically higher chance of being selected for the shortlist of potential winners than later entrants.

‘Although all entries were always taken into account and had a chance of winning, we brought this issue to Icstis's attention as soon as we were aware of it, as this ruling acknowledges.

‘We also changed the winner selection procedure before Icstis began its investigation and earlier this month we publicised the actions we had taken when we announced that we would stop premium rate competitions for the purpose of profit making.

'We are surprised the promotion of prizes on the competition has been ruled to be misleading. The channel took legal advice that reassured us of its compliance with the Icstis code of practice and earlier this year, before the Icstis investigation began, we discussed the mechanics of the competition with senior staff at Icstis who assured us that they were comfortable with the manner and circumstances in which the prizes were referred to.'

Channel 4 has already announced that its share of any profit made by the Deal or No Deal competition will be donated to charity, while all other premium rate competitions will cease.

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