30/07/2004

Trading Standards issue scratchcard warning

Trading Standards officials have issued a warning against scratchcards which ask people to call a premium rate hotline number to collect a top prize.

Usually distributed in newspapers and magazines, these scratchcards and other prize promotions all turn out to be so-called ‘winners’ and give the impression that the recipients have been lucky enough to win a top prize, gift or award.

To find out exactly what has been won, ‘winners’ are encouraged to ring a premium phone line costing as much as £10.50. Details of the alternative postal claims route are generally set out in extremely small print on the reverse of the cards.

Misleadingly, prizes have not been 'won' - they are guaranteed on the cards. The prizes items are usually giveaways such as holidays or discount vouchers - but with stringent terms and conditions attached, Trading Standards warned.

The holiday prizes are generally for one person only (with an option to pay for additional travellers) with no guarantee of preferred destination, and most have to be taken with as little as seven days’ notice.

There are also strict deadlines for completion of forms and acceptance of the holiday offered. Some also required an additional processing fee although mention is made of such limitations in the terms and conditions on the reverse of the card, those are usually lengthy and difficult to read.

Discount vouchers are typically time-limited, some require a minimum expenditure in order to redeem them and, in the case of holiday vouchers, can only be redeemed through a specified agent – therefore preventing the consumer from shopping around for the best deal.

Kevin McNamara of the Trading Standards Service said: “These promotions tell everyone that they are winners. In fact, most who respond end up as losers.”

If anyone feels they have been misled by the information on one of these scratchcards or prize promotions they should contact Consumerline on 0845 600 6262.

(MB)

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