Telecom Express, who ran the premium-rate line for the Mail on Sunday's Great British Treasure Hunt, has been slapped by PhonepayPlus for making the competition too difficult to enter.
PhonepayPlus, the regulator formerly known as ICSTIS, got involved when members of the public began complaining about the promotion, which involved a DVD containing various puzzles, and a map of Great Britain. The following week another DVD was provided with more puzzles to solve - combined with the first lot this led to eight final locations, which could then be used to calculate the final answer.
The DVD stated that punters calling the entry line, at 50 pence a minute, would be asked for the eight locations. In reality they were only asked for the length of the final answer and its first and last letter. Given that callers were only given three seconds to give their answer, it's not surprising that many failed to submit it in time and had to call again, racking up another £1.50 charge.
Those without a touchtone phone couldn't enter at all, of course, as entry required using the letters on a phone to enter the final location. Telecom Express argued that the term "touchtone" would just have confused people, and everyone knows how to use numbers on a telephone these days, even readers of the Mail on Sunday - PhonepayPlus disagreed.
All three complaints - the confusing requirements, the short time period and the unspecified touchtone requirement - were upheld. However, no fine has been levied against Telecom Express, as apparently the problems were considered "minor" and a formal slap on the wrist is all they received.
We're sure the Mail will be taking more serious steps to prevent this kind of thing happening again; after all, "[PhonepayPlus] is supposed to punish bad practice, not make light of it", as they themselves put it last time they were lamenting the regulator's lack of balls. ®