Postal entries unfairly excluded from ITV promotions

Postal entries unfairly excluded from ITV promotions: Avid readers of the Prizeologist blog may remember that back in August this year we posted that ITV had gone to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, head bowed and cap in hand, to confess that a number of its on-air competitions had not been run fairly.

Ofcom has now investigated and, sure enough, it’s found that, between 2016 and 2019, 41,000 entries to on-air promotions did not have an opportunity to win. These were postal entries to competitions, often with substantial cash prizes, on programmes like Good Morning Britain, Lorraine, This Morning, Loose Women, X Factor: The Band, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and (you might view this as the odd one out) coverage of the Spanish road cycling grand tour, La Vuelta.

Checks and balances

I mean, good on ITV for turning itself in – it’s nice to see a business behaving with some integrity. The mistakes have been put down to ‘human error’ by ITV staff who were inputting entrants’ information on to a spreadsheet, but I’m shocked that it could have happened in the first place. Did they have no processes? Were there no checks in place?

These irregularities only came to light when ITV carried out an audit of its competition practices, but I’d warrant it couldn’t have been an annual audit or the issues would have been uncovered sooner and those mistakes rectified?

The postal option

Most people enter on-air competitions by text or perhaps online, but there is usually a fee attached to that, because the competitions are revenue-generators for the broadcaster and the free postal route ensures the promotion remains within the Gambling Act 2005.

This is the traditional ‘answers on a postcard please’ and it means your entry will be included in the pool of entries made by all methods from which the winner is drawn. Mind you, you may still have to pay the postage and I notice that the cost of a first-class stamp is going up to 85p on 1 January, so postal entry is no longer the negligible-cost route it once was – that being said it still counts as a free entry route as it is not an inflated rate.

Anyway, in the case of these 41,000 ITV entries they weren’t added to the pool and if you’re not in it, you can’t win it. Apparently, the non-pooled postal entries represented less than 1% of the total entries made to the relevant ITV promotions during the period in question, but that’s beside the point really – any prize draw or competition must be 100% fair.

Reprimand from Ofcom

This is what an Ofcom spokesperson had to say about it: ‘Our investigation found that people who entered these competitions by post were excluded from the draw, with no chance of winning. ITV failed to follow proper procedures and this led to a clear breach of our rules, which require all broadcast competitions to be conducted fairly.’

However, the regulator conceded that ITV had been proactive in the way it dealt with the issue by notifying Ofcom and immediately setting about to determine the extent and cause of the problem. Ofcom does have the power to impose fines, but it decided to take no further action against ITV in this case (although in the past it has – back in 2008 it fined ITV £5.7 million, which was a record at the time).

ITV’s response was to say it has implemented strategies to improve its postal entry procedures and it aims to donate a sum of money to charity as a ‘mark of its sincere regret’.

Prizeology knows exactly how to run a fair prize draw or competition, so if we can help with your prize promotion, do get in touch – email us on hello@prizeology.com or give us a call on 020 7856 0402.

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