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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Phone In Rip Off

The poor old consumer has to be ever more vigilant these days, guarding himself/herself against rip offs and unnecessary products/services being foisted upon him/her by unscrupulous and dishonest individuals/companies.

Aside form the myriad of companies pushing loans with excessive interest rates, unnecessary PPI products and "ambulance" chasing lawyers it is now revealed that the phone in competitions run by our "trusted" media organisations are in fact rip offs.

This should come as no surprise to anyone, given the extortionate fees being charged per call and the ludicrous odds of actually being able to get through.

Nevertheless, the British consumer seems to be particularly gullible and has spent a veritable fortune on these scam phone competitions.

Finally they are now being exposed for what they really are. The BBC's Panorama programme broadcast on Monday revealed that viewers have been defrauded of millions of pounds on a phone in operated by GMTV's breakfast show.

Seemingly for the past four years Opera Interactive Technology, a company working for GMTV, had been finalising shortlists of potential winners "long before" lines closed.

GMTV has, not surprisingly suspended all phone-in quizzes, but said it was confident it had not breached regulators' codes.

Opera Interactive Technology have denied any wrongdoing.

Panorama claims that tens of thousands of callers had been charged £1.80 to enter competitions on GMTV, but at least 50% of them had no chance of winning.

The programme estimated that since 2003, callers had wasted £10m a year entering the competitions.

The premium rate phone line watchdog Icstis has formally written to Panorama to request a copy of the programme's evidence, which it would use to decide whether to launch an investigation into the "serious allegations".

Panorama said Ofcom has launched a formal investigation, following a complaint against GMTV and Opera. But Ofcom has not confirmed that it is related to the same issue.

GMTV has now terminated its contract with Opera Interactive Technology.

The lesson to be learned here is simple, don't waste your money on phone in competitions.

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