The telephone service provider behind the Richard and Judy phone in competition Âyou say we payÂÂ has been fined a record Â£150,000, the largest fine ever imposed on a premium rate phone regulator.
On the show viewers were encouraged to phone a Â£1 a minute number for the chance to win a cashÂ prize, but Eckoh UK Ltd continued to take calls after the shortlist of the final of theÂ competition had been decided i.e. there was no chance of winning. In fact between the 29thÂ January and the 15th of February 47% of all calls were taken after the final shortlist had beenÂ drawn up.
According to the ICSTIS chairman Sir Alistair Graham: ÂThe size of the fine reflects the veryÂ serious nature of the breach of our Code of Practice………the Hearing Panel found clearÂ evidence of fundamental failings in the winner selection process. Winners were being chosen beforeÂ the competition closing deadline, whilst millions of additional viewers were still encouraged toÂ phone in and pay to enter competition but were denied the opportunity of fair consideration.”
He went on to say: “Such reckless disregard for viewers is unacceptable. In this case, viewersÂ were not only Âpaying competition entrantsÂ but also consumers who enjoy a high degree of consumerÂ protection already provided by ICSTIS,”.
On top of the record fine the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of theÂ Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) has also ordered that all quiz entrants be refunded. ButÂ “The panel note that a refund scheme, operated by Channel 4, is in place already. However, theÂ panel was told that this scheme requires consumers to provide evidence of their having telephoned
the relevant premium rate line before a refund will be made. The scheme may thus not be compliantÂ with paragraph 8.7.2(h) of the Code which provides that where refunds are ordered they should beÂ made ‘unless there is good cause to believe that such claims are not valid’. As such Âthe panelÂ agrees with the ExecutiveÂs suggestion that the payment of refunds be ordered, but that thisÂ sanction be suspended generally to come into effect only in the event that the current refundÂ scheme does not comply with the Code. This sanction will lapse after the period of one yearÂ.
ICSTIS can only fine the service provider not the television production company (Cactus TV) orÂ Channel 4. Ofcom is though conducting an investigation under its broadcast code which couldÂ potentially affect both the broadcaster and production company.