Wye Valley Promotions fined for phone competition
A company that operates premium-rate telephone competitions has been fined £120,000 by the industry watchdog and told to give refunds to customers.
Wye Valley Promotions Ltd sent letters to people falsely telling them they had won prizes including £20,000 in cash and TVs, Phonepay Plus said.
It then charged them £1.50 for a text message or £1.53 a minute on the phone when they tried to claim them.
Wye Valley Promotions said it might appeal against the decision.
Phonepay Plus said it received 36 complaints about Wye Valley Promotions, which is based in Ross-on-Wye, between November 2012 and March this year.
It said phone calls would last five-and-a-half minutes at a minimum or people would be made to send six text messages when trying to claim a prize that never existed.
It has given the company 28 days to pay the fine.
Phonepay Plus acting chief executive Jo Prowse said: "Wye Valley Promotions Ltd misled consumers with personal letters and 'claim forms'.
"It led them to believe they had won big prizes, but in reality the letters were little more than adverts for a prize draw."
The watchdog's tribunal panel ruled it was "a very serious case" and ordered Wye Valley Promotions to give a refund to anyone who requested one.
A Wye Valley Promotions statement said it was surprised the investigation had taken place because it showed Phonepay Plus copies of its promotions 32 times over two years and "not once were concerns raised or changes requested".
It said it asked Phonepay Plus for the consumers' contact details so it could refund them but it failed to respond.
"We were eventually able to find the necessary details and refund the consumers," the statement said.
It added: "We are disappointed by Phonepay Plus' decision and by the disproportionate sanction levied which is not remotely related to any consumer harm.
"We will review the full decision carefully with a view to appealing to an independent body."