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Comments on Saturday 12 August 2006:
Making me angry today is this new late-night TV trend to have evil lying scams on. One example is a show where they have a woman begging people to call, for several minutes, telling the viewer "surely you know the right answer, you will win this large amount of money if you call and give the right answer (to a multiple-choice question)". They strongly present it as there being only one person calling every few minutes, given the sound of a ringing phone at that time, and the woman pleading with viewers to please call, strongly implying that nobody is. The truth, of course, is that thousands of people are calling (and paying outrageous prices for the call) and being told "no, you are not lucky, you don't get put through". There is a subscript on the screen saying the rules are "at itv.com", which presumably they are. Somewhere. Certainly not on the index page, nor linked from it, nor on the page of the show, nor linked from that.

Today I saw an example even worse, in that it doesn't even have a human face to the lie. It has the same small text claiming the rules are "at itv.com", but ... well, I'll explain my objection to that in the form of quoting from the complaint I just sent to the advertising standards authority.
The banner-game claims that the rules are available "on itv.com" - that website is the entire channel's website, and has no obvious links to the rules for the text-message game. The page for the TV show that it's superimposed upon also has no link to the game rules. A search of the site for the game rules doesn't produce them.

The game is clearly intentionally misleading about how it works, and the rules being "available" is as useless as they could possibly have made it.

The game is "text message the correct four digit number". It shows people guessing incorrectly for ten minutes, despite the correct answer being obvious usually before the first minute is up. The clear and deliberate *implication* is that you will win if you text the correct answer in before you see someone else do so (which you won't because only incorrect guesses are shown).

Since I was unable to find the rules I can't determine how the actual behaviour of the game differs from the presented behaviour, but I assume it's either that the first person with the correct answer wins (and the fact that they did so isn't revealed until nine-or-more minutes later such that people are playing for a prize they can't possibly win), or that the winner is selected at random from an undoubtedly very large number of correct answers, which similarly means the chances of winning are massively misrepresented.

I think even if the rules *were* easy to find from the given link, the misleading game would be reprehensible. With the rules concealed such that even a computer programmer can't find them with a concerted effort, this is completely evil exploitation of a lot of gullible people - people who presumably think of a 100 pound prize as something worth going for, who are then charged money they likely can't afford for a promised prize most of them will never receive.
The thing that really makes me angry is that I think that if they made the way the game works perfectly clear, they would still rake in about two thirds of the money they make. They wouldn't need to tell you the odds, only that your chance of winning is "one in however many people get the right answer", and there are plenty of people who will pay 50p for a one in X (where X is probably more than 50000) chance at a hundred quid. The other estimated-third, the ones who wouldn't play if they weren't being basically lied to, aren't being exploited for being fools, they're being exploited for being trusting. That's so much worse, and that's what makes me angry enough to make the effort of complaining, and ranting, and posting a blog entry that doesn't even have a joke in it. And no, I wasn't fooled by any of the scams. I am neither so foolish nor so trusting, I just have sympathy for trusting people. [02:59]

Carina
What a chance discovery... or re-discovery! With regard to the above, might I suggest you contact Ofcom, as I believe they are currently undertaking a public consultation on the nature and use of telephone numbers for such 'competitions'; a brief look at the Gambling Commission's website may also lead you to the current phase of their consultation on these so-called 'competitions', and I think you'll find they're trying to get these 'competitions' regulated, or off the air.

Us 'media whores' have uses after all, it seems... Hope that's of use to you.

RavenBlack
Mm, I sent the complaint to Ofcom as well, a short while later.

Carina
My apologies for patronising, then. I should have realised - it's the *average* person who isn't aware of their existence. I hope you get a decent response from them!

RavenBlack
Not at all, it was good information. I didn't really know who to contact, there wasn't any organisation that seemed to really fit, so I pretty much ended up picking one of them at random (or based on its contact form being most readily available). I didn't feel patronised in the slightest.
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