ICSTIS , the UK premium rate services regulator, has also ordered a sanction to provide refunds for those affected.
ICSTIS imposed its highest ever fine on Eckoh based on findings that the competition, which ran on Channel 4'sRichard and Judy programme, had seriously misled viewers. Viewers were encouraged to enter competitions even after the winners had been selected.
ICSTIS calculated that during a period from 29 January to 15 February 2007, some 47 per cent of calls were received after the shortlist of winners had already been selected. Calls were charged at £1 each.
Code of Practice breach
"The size of the fine reflects the very serious nature of the breach of our Code of Practice," ICSTIS chairman Sir Alistair Graham said. "The Hearing Panel found clear evidence of fundamental failings in the winner selection process."
Sir Alistair continued: "Such reckless disregard for viewers is unacceptable. In this case, viewers were not only 'paying competition entrants' but also consumers who enjoy a high degree of consumer protection already provided by ICSTIS."
Sir Alistair slammed the casual attitude shown towards consumers. "Consumer protection should be at the heart of television rather than a broadcasting philosophy of 'the show must go on'. The public should be able to use these services with absolute confidence. Consumers must get a fair deal."
As well as imposing the record fine, ICSTIS is now referring the case to Ofcom . It will decide whether to take further action against the parties involved under the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.