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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Fictitious contests on the Internet - UOKiK decisions

< previous | next > 01.02.2019

Fictitious contests on the Internet - UOKiK decisions
  • HotAwards and HotPrizes services were promoted in such a way as to suggest to consumers that they were participating in a contest.
  • As a matter of fact in order to “win”, it would be necessary to send SMS messages costing altogether as much as tens of thousands of zlotys.
  • UOKiK adjudged that entrepreneurs were using unfair market practices.

The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection made two decisions regarding services with “prizes”. They were promoted in such a way as to encourage consumers to send premium SMS messages, although - as it turned out later - that was not enough to collect any “winnings”.

The decisions of UOKiK relate to the following companies: Karcz-Provider Kamil Karcz from Sułkowice and Leaders from Andrychów. The Karcz-Provider company ran the HotAwards service, which was then taken over by the Leaders Company, established and controlled by the same entrepreneur. On the basis of the HotAwards service, the Leaders Company created the HotPrizes service. Both services were promoted with the participation of partners cooperating with the entrepreneurs. Consumers could see advertisements on the internet informing about the possibility of receiving, among others, tablets, laptops, game consoles and mobile phones. The advertisements included slogans such as “Win”, “You need just a few minutes!” After solving the contest task, there would appear such an inscription as “Congratulations! You made it!” followed by the message: “This is the last step! Complete your data. Send an SMS with the following content (...) at the following number (...).”

However, after sending a costly message, it would turn out that this was not enough to collect the prize. In fact, consumers were gaining access to HotAwards or HotPrizes service (website). There, they were getting points that constituted a minute fraction of the amount needed to get the prize. For example, for an SMS costing the gross sum of
PLN 30.75, the user would get 25 points, while for example, to obtain an iPhone 5s gold, 20,000 points were required. Therefore 800 such messages had to be send, which would cost more than PLN 24,000.

The UOKiK stated in its decisions that such a way of promoting HotAwards and HotPrizes services was misleading. It was a dishonest market practice that violated the collective interests of consumers.

The Office also had reservations about two other practices applied by entrepreneurs. First of all, important information about the HotAwards and HotPrizes manner of functioning as well as costs and regulations were placed at the bottom of sites linked to these services (in the part not visible without page rewind), or they were presented in poorly legible messages. Secondly, the regulations require that along with the information on the premium SMS number, there must be provided its gross price and the name of the entity that performs the additional service. But on the websites promoting HotAwards and HotPrizes, the price of the SMS messages was stated at the bottom of the site instead of next to the number, and the data of the entity providing the additional service was not there at all.

By closing HotAwards and HotPrizes services, both companies have discontinued the disputed practices. Karcz-Provider has ceased operations, while UOKiK punished Leaders Company by imposing a fine in the amount of PLN 616,000.

The decision concerning the Karcz-Provider company is legally binding, while Leaders appealed to the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection.

The final decisions of the President of UOKiK have the character of a prejudication in court proceedings. This means that the findings of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection regarding the fact that the given practice violates collective consumer interests are binding on the court. The Court does not have to conduct its own evidentiary proceedings in this regard. Consumers wanting to assert their rights in court may refer to a legally valid decision of UOKiK.

Help for consumers:

Phone 801 440 220 lub 22 290 89 16 – consumer helpline
E-mail: [SCODE]cG9yYWR5QGRsYWtvbnN1bWVudG93LnBs[ECODE]
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Dodatkowe informacje dla mediów:

Biuro Prasowe  UOKiK 
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa
Tel. 695 902 088, 22 55 60 314
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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