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?