/ Money

‘Premium-line’ scratch cards may be scratched for good

Have you ever been tempted by the scratch cards that fall out of magazines and newspapers? If you have, you may no longer need to call premium numbers to claim your prize.

A while back, after leafing through the Sunday paper, I picked up the strip of three scratch cards that I usually bin and gave them a go.

As is the pattern with these cards, I found I’d got three matching symbols on one card, two on another, and none on the third.

I decided to chance my arm and call the number to see whether I’d won £1m or something else half-way decent. As it was, I’d scooped a tenner. Following my call, I discovered that I’d been charged £9 in premium rate phone calls and texts. I was also told I’d have to post the scratch card with a stamped addressed envelope in order to receive my prize. This would have left me 20p down in total.

A costly competition

The charges were explained in the small print, but I can’t say I noticed them. And that’s saying something considering I keep a look out for scams as part of my day job. So, needless to say, I was pleased to learn that the European Court has just ruled that scratch cards that require you to call premium rate phone lines to claim a prize are unlawful. And that’s apparently even in cases where the cost of calling is minimal compared to the prize you’d win.

Putting my own experience aside (which I’m still calling an ‘experiment’ to sooth my pride), I think the ruling is good news. After all, how many of us would assume that a scratch card could come with a price tag to claim our prize?

Gone, but not forgotten

Last weekend, I noticed that scratch cards were absent from the usual bumf that’s slotted into my newspaper’s pages. But I’m worried that the providers of these scratch cards will find some loophole to exploit and we’ll soon be back to square one.

It’s encouraging that the Office of Fair Trading welcomed the European Court’s decision:

‘The court’s been very, very clear that if you’re calling something a prize, then it’s got to be a prize, it can’t be something which effectively you’re paying for. It can’t be something that you’re asked to pay money for.’

Have you ever been tempted by supposedly ‘free’ scratch cards? And were you aware of the full terms when making a call to claim your prize?


I’ve always assumed they were a con, and it looks like I’m right. It’s a shame that magazines/newspaper allowed them to be distributed with their wares so readily. I wonder if another knock on from this ruling will be a price rise of said papers to compensate them for the loss of earnings from peddling such wares.

I complained to both the editor and the publisher of a magazine and the cards stopped appearing. It may have been coincidence.

Bill.i.am says:
24 October 2012

MAY have been? It was. A lot of the time it’s not the magazine editors who stick them in each issue but the distrubutors or newsagent.

It’s like saying this ampersand “&” scares off lions as there are no lions round here.

In the case I mentioned, the editor of the magazine said he would pass my comments on to the publisher/distributor, Archant, which was putting the scratch cards in the magazines they sent out by post. Archant did not reply and did not reply when I contacted it directly.

Golden rule:
If it sounds too good to be true – it is!

Why do you expect to get something for nothing? No one out there is waiting to give you money without making a lot more for themselves. Emails about winning continental lotteries (up-front handling charge required please), the Health Lottery, on-line gambling. Who’s the winner going to be? Not you! You need to exercise common sense which seems to be lacking in some people.