Ant and Dec sofa scrutiny

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin, but I’m afraid there’s no way to cushion the blow. Obviously I’m aware that Ant and Dec – particularly Ant – have had more than enough problems of late, but Ofcom has apparently added to the duo’s woes with an investigation into a complaint about the secret sofa competition on the recent series of Saturday Night Takeaway.

You know. It’s the show where you don’t just watch the ads, you win them. But in case you’re not a regular viewer, the lads showed a shot of a sofa in a mystery location. Viewers had to guess where the sofa was and race to the location before a set deadline. Once there, they were given a number and, if theirs was drawn at random, they won a seat on the plane to Florida for the end of the season show.

The complaint came from a viewer who claimed they had successfully identified the Sofa Watch: Battle of Britain mystery location in the episode broadcast on 10 March and got there before the deadline. However, there was an off-camera signing up process which wasn’t completed in time, so they weren’t registered, didn’t get a number and weren’t allowed to take part in the prize draw, so didn’t have the opportunity to win the holiday.

Ofcom has confirmed that it’s investigating whether the show broke broadcast competition rules, and ITV has confirmed that it’s preparing a response for Ofcom. Of course, Ant and Dec and Saturday Night Takeaway are no strangers to Ofcom investigations, because back in 2008 the programme was one of those singled out for criticism by Ofcom for poor compliance procedures related to premium-rate phone calls. The fine was significant.

So I did a bit of armchair detective work and the registration terms and conditions for the sofa segment can still be found online. I’ve read them and they do say, “You understand that by being in attendance at a location does not guarantee that you will be registered before the deadline.” Now far be it from me to second-guess Ofcom, but if those Ts&Cs were available to potential entrants at the time of the competition, then that might be a pretty straightforward ruling. However, we will have to see what Ofcom says.

At present there’s no indication of when Ofcom will release the results of its investigation, but I’ll update you when I know more.

As well Prizeology’s chief prizeologist, Sarah Burns is a Scambassador for the National Trading Standards Scams Team and an anti-scam campaigner.
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