Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Premium Rates

There are moves afoot to address the TV show phone-in "quizzes" where the questions are stupidly easy and the cost of entering is sky high. Now of course if GCSE maths were just a little bit more of a hurdle in this country we wouldn't have to worry about there being people out there who don't know these things are a scam. However seems like a case of too little too late to me.

Apologies in advance for quoting chunks of the article but really...

'Broadcasting minister Shaun Woodward said that, even if some channels were running scams, "it doesn't necessarily follow that they are all doing it". '

Depends what you mean by a scam. Are they making a profit from the phone lines far greater than the value of the prize they're giving away? Yes. And all the channels are doing that.

'The government would introduce more regulation if this was deemed "proportional" to the problem, but industry self-regulation would be "quicker, more flexible and more likely to work", he added. '

Industry self-regulation clearly doesn't work because that's what's going on right now. Industry self-regulation is just a euphimism for "I'll turn a blind eye and you make sure you get me a nice Christmas present".

'Mr Woodward said that "realistically, when we take part in these programmes, you know that the odds are stacked against you".'

We? I don't take part in these shows and judging by your shifting pronouns, nor do you Mr Woodward. If people taking part in these programmes are aware that they are paying far more for the call they are making than they are on average going to win then they are gambling, and that falls under much more restrictive gambling law. If they don't know then they're being scammed.

One of the responsible parties, David Brook from Optimistic Entertainment said 'We don't wish to encourage people to make multiple calls'. Now I can't say I watch a lot of these kinds of shows but I have noticed when I do watch them the never-ending urges to call and to call again if you don't get through.

And the proliferation of these shows tells us that people are falling for it and losing a lot of money.

We've also recently heard that victims of Farepak's collapse have been told to ring a premium rate number to register claims. And the same is true of the government's benefits hotline (reposted in Private Eye so no link).

What's needed is something much much stronger than what is being discussed. I suggest a major new piece of legislation to cover premium rate lines and text message services so that they can't be used for entering competitions or providing information which the company or body setting them up should reasonably be providing to it's customers or callers.

What do you think? Dial 0898 YES CRUELLA if you think premium rate numbers should be banned...

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