Feeds

ICSTIS hits Opera for £250,000

GMTV early-winners debacle comes to a head

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

UK premium-rate regulator ICSTIS has hit Opera Telecom with a £250,000 fine and independent review of its operating practices for picking the winners of the GMTV phone-in competition early.

Competition lines opened at 06.00 and closed at 09.00, with the winning name being drawn live on air from a hat containing 20 names. The problem was that Opera picked the lucky 20 about 08.00, an hour before the phone lines closed.

But even punters who called in before 08.00 were by no means certain to be entered into the competition. The servers at Opera could only handle 1,200 simultaneous calls, but up to 10,000 eager punters wasn't unusual, so the overload was passed to BT's RIDE call-handling system. No problem there, except those callers were never entered into the selection process, even though they were charged for entering.

Even worse, when the Opera servers were down for a week all voice calls were transferred to RIDE, meaning only those who entered by SMS stood any chance of winning at all.

ICSTIS said: "Viewers were not informed at any time during this period that those entering by telephone could not win."

Taking February 2006 as an example, 61 per cent of entrants never stood a chance of winning. Just over 1.5 million people entered, bringing in £1,246,627.25, of which £762,935.87 was came from entries that couldn't win.

Apparently, all this was the fault of one errant employee, Mark Nuttall, who "owned the client [GMTV] and was very possessive".

Among the evidence presented to ICSTIS was an email sent by Nuttall in response to a note suggesting GMTV might have seen proof of what was going on. it comprises the classic line: "Make sure they never find out that you are picking the winners early!!!!!", and was copied to at least four people within the company, including the company director.

The recipients of the mail were apparently too busy to read it, though Opera also tried to argue that the message had an innocent meaning; an argument ICSTIS rejected.

Opera Telecom has, since been named and shamed, worked with ICSTIS to investigate what went wrong, and arranged refunds to competition entrants and GMTV. It has also created a prize draw into which all the competition entrants who couldn't have won have been entered.

But that served little in terms of mitigation to ICSTIS, which imposed its maximum-possible fine while noting in its judgement on the case: "But for this cap, it would be possible to justify a fine well in excess of the limit of £250,000."

Opera Telecom now has to appoint an independent consultancy and work with ICSTIS to demonstrate how much it's improved things if it doesn't want to end up with a 12-month ban on operating premium-rate services. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app
An app and service where other people 'see' for you
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom
Regulator swallows this line and parrots it back out at us. What are they playing at?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.