ITV has admitted overcharging viewers who cast votes during the latest season of FremantleMedia/Syco’s The X Factor using the red button interactive TV feature on Sky digital TV set-top boxes.
The UK commercial broadcaster is the latest name to be added to a growing list of instances in which viewers have effectively been ripped off by participation TV services.
ITV, whose premium rate telephone call provider Eckoh is at the centre of separate phone-in scandals concerning Channel 4 and BBC1, said today it had charged red-button X Factor voters 50p per vote instead of the advertised 35p. This amounted to a total of £200,000 (US$394,340).
Holding its hands up, the broadcaster admitted responsibility, admitting the error was due to data inputting mistakes on its own part. Conversely, however, the company had also undercharged some viewers using Sky’s interactive TV facilities to take part in competitions, taking 35p from each entrant rather than the £1 it was supposed to.
The mistakes were made in programmes broadcast between October 14 and 16. ITV said that landline, mobile and text entries were completely unaffected. The company is offering to repay anyone who wishes to claim back their 15p and ITV is also making a donation of £200,000 to Childline, the helpline run by children’s charity the NSPCC.
“We very much regret that a mistake was made in the red button payment systems during the last series of the X Factor and we apologise to all those viewers affected,” ITV said in a statement.
“This was an isolated incident of human error and since this incident ITV has undertaken a thorough review of the operation of its interactive services and systems. We are confident that we have a fair and transparent system that works and delivers a good service to viewers.”