PhonepayPlus, the UK’s regulator of premium rate services, has handed a record fine of £800,000 to Churchcastle Limited, a company that runs competitions in newspapers. Entrants in the competitions were contacted with a number to call and told that they were “close” to receiving a prize, so should call to claim it.
PhonepayPlus said that it had received complaints from entrants who had received phone bills for hundreds of pounds, and that it had specific concerns that elderly people had been targeted. Calls were charged at a rate of up to £1.53 per minute, and most of the money went to Churchcastle. The complaints received by the regulator related to the size of the text that set out the charges, misleading promotions and the poor quality of the prizes, which included jewellery.