Quiz phonelines kill competition

Jonathan Fingerhut’s condemnation of premium rate phonelines as an entry route to instant-win promotions (Letters, MW July 8) is a long overdue rebuke for a practice that claims to be part of a “legal, decent, honest and truthful” industry.

At the time of legislation, despite the quest for a totally “free” entry alternative, it was considered that the price of a postage stamp was minimal and an acceptable outlay for the consumer.

It was certainly the most practical solution, given that the technology had yet to develop digital communication, and computer systems and call centres able to handle six-figure responses to promotions.

The underlying premise of the loophole in the “no contribution” restriction is that the promoter will not profit from the consumer choosing the postage route to entry and that there was no cheaper, practical alternative available to either party. Fair enough.

That was then, this is now. With digital exchanges, many thousands of calls can be handled simultaneously; call centres follow tried and tested formulae to manage huge responses; we have a raft of call tariff options (including freephone) not to mention a burgeoning Internet/e-mail network.

This being the case, how can it be right to charge a consumer phoneline out at 1p below the cost of a first class stamp (offering a valuable saving) and yet make anything up to 60 per cent profit from it?

But surely this is good news for our clients? We can stretch budgets, create bigger promotions on the back of the profits (maybe even earn ourselves an award or two in the process).

Great. Turn the savvy consumer off the brand or service and break the (spirit of the) law. Sounds like a solid business plan.

The point is, if we want to be taken seriously as a self-regulated industry, why stretch the law beyond the acceptability of consumers – the very people we are trying to influence?

Karl Perry

Managing director

PCG Manchester

(via e-mail)

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