Phone watchdog faces criticism

The phone competitions’ watchdog has been accused of failing to shoulder its responsibilities by the advertising and sales promotion industries.

Philip Circus, legal advisor to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Institute of Sales Promotions, accuses ICSTIS – the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information – of refusing to admit that many premium rate phone competitions are illegal (MW June 14,1995).

“The problem is that ICSTIS does not want to face up to the fundamental illegality of these things (competitions),” says Circus.

ICSTIS has called for regulatory bodies to submit consultation documents commenting on the legality, fairness, profitability and skill level of premium rate phone competitions. The deadline for replies was August 12.

“Reading between the lines, it seems that ICSTIS is saying, ‘Our preferred option is to do nothing,'” says Circus.

Premium rate phone competitions were the largest single source of complaints received by ICSTIS last year. They accounted for 881 complaints out of a total of 3,252. ICSTIS says the annual turnover of premium rate phone competitions is 63m.

Circus cites the successful prosecution of phone competition Telemillion, which was found guilty of running an illegal lottery last year (MW August 11 1995). In his reply to ICSTIS, Circus says the Telemillion case suggests such schemes are illegal and that ICSTIS should not allow them to make use of premium rate telephone facilities.

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