Back in January I suggested that you should make a formal complaint about telephone scammers. Naturally I followed my own advice, and I’ve just received this email from the communications watchdog ICSTIS:
* The call that you received was made by using Automated Calling Equipment known as ACE. This is actually an offence under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, which is an EC Directive. It was therefore considered that the use of this equipment was illegal.
* The promotional call had suggested that recipients of the call had previously taken part in the competition service, but evidence demonstrated that this was not the case. This was considered to be misleading.
* The premium rate service itself asked callers to enter their telephone number in order for the service to verify that the callers were genuine winners. Monitoring of the service demonstrated this process was entirely fictitious and that it accepted any telephone number input into the system. This was also considered to be misleading.
* Despite the promotional telephone call stating that there were a number of prizes that could be claimed, it appeared that all callers were allocated the same prize (the Spanish cruise). Again, this was considered misleading.
* The promotional call suggested that recipients were required to complete the claim and call the premium rate number as a matter of urgency. ICSTIS considered that this prevented consumers from being able to make an informed decision about taking part in the premium rate service, as they would have felt under pressure to call.
* Call costs were only provided once callers had already spent £7.50 on the premium rate service. ICSTIS considered that this would give consumers no option but to complete the premium rate call, as otherwise they would be left with significant charges without being in a position to claim the listed prize. ICSTIS considered that this took advantage of consumers.
* The promotional message did not inform potential callers of the cost of taking part of the service. This is a requirement under the Code of Practice.
* The promotional message did not inform potential callers of the identity or alternative contact details of the promoter. This is a requirement under the Code of Practice.
* The promotional call was inappropriate because it was not specifically targeted at individuals within the home and therefore could have been received by children or by people who do not have permission to use premium rate services.
* The promotion used Automated Calling Equipment (ACE) despite the entire premium rate industry being warned that it was not permitted to do so.
* The promotional failed to inform recipients of the total cost of taking part in the service, which a requirement of prize line promotions under the Code of Practice.
* The promotional failed to supply sufficient information about the prizes and any terms and conditions that may have applied to claiming any of those prizes.
World Travel, the firm behind the calls, didn’t dispute any of these findings, but argued that they didn’t realise they were being naughty. The result?
World Travel were fined £75,000 and they were barred from operating any prize line or competition service (using premium rate) for a period of 12 months.