Gambling - Ofcom rules on ITV competition investigation

08 Dec

On Monday (7th December) Ofcom confirmed the outcome of an investigation into ITV prize competitions which ran between 2016 and 2019. The investigation commenced after ITV discovered that between 2016 and 2019 a number of postal votes were not included in the final prize draw, when they should have qualified. The full decision can be read here.

ITV said that the discrepancies resulted from human error by ITV staff undertaking the manual operation of transferring the postal entry data from the spreadsheet. In each case, the operator misread the information and entered data from an incorrect cell on the spreadsheet

ITV said that the total number of affected postal entries across six competitions conducted between 2016 and 2019 was 41,252.

Prize competitions and free draws are free from control under the Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) and therefore do not require licences to operate. Competitions on shows including Good Morning Britain and Lorraine were effected.

A prize competition is exempt where a participant has to rely upon skill or knowledge (of a sufficient degree) to gain entry to the prize draw. An alternative route, adopted by a number of TV competitions, is to offer a free entry route.

A 'free entry' route allows consumers to enter a promotion without paying, or by paying no more than the minimum unavoidable cost of entering a promotion. Sending a postal entry and incurring the cost of a stamp would constitute a ‘free entry’. Premium cost telephone number would note.

You may note that many TV competitions offer an entry route via the premium telephone route (from which they can generate an income) and a postal entry as a ‘free’ alternative therefore taking the competition outside of regulation by the Gambling Commission. In this instance 41,252 votes were incorrectly omitted from the final prize draw.

If you require legal advice regarding similar competitions, please contact one of the team.

Law correct at the date of publication.
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