24 Mar 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about SMS competitions and trivia scams.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Other members of our community may have received on 11 March a scratchie-like advert in the Sunday Mail called Text Lotto, which is being promoted by Star Promotions Club, and in bold print it states that you can join for your chance to win $5,000 cash, with an $80 lifestyle voucher for every entry. One is required to scratch the panel at the front to reveal the unique code and SMS the code at a cost of 25¢, which subscribes you to the Star Promotions Club at a cost of $6.60 a week. Further in the terms and conditions it states that there is a $6.60 sign-up fee and a further weekly cost of $6.60. These terms also state that the Australian resident must be aged 16 years or over. However, I note also that the conditions exclude New South Wales and ACT residents. My questions to the minister are:

1. Why does South Australia not also provide some exclusion?

2. Is the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs aware of this promotion, and does it have any concerns about targeting the under aged or vulnerable and their being recruited into something that they may not fully understand?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:41): Indeed, the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs provides a great deal of advice and also public warnings to a number of different groups of targeted people, providing them with information about being very cautious and aware of the potential for scams and other get-rich-quick schemes, such as illegal pyramid schemes, and others. Warnings are usually published via media release, with information about the schemes being available through the consumer affairs telephone advisory service. Also, we tend to put a great deal of detail on our internet site. We also have a number of valuable publications—booklets, pamphlets, etc.—that also target their message at a wide range of groups and sectors to get the message across.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of very shady deals being offered, and I think the word of warning to people is that, if it is a deal that looks too good to be true, then it probably is, so be very careful. The other really important warning message that we distribute wide and far is never to give out personal information or details, particularly banking and credit details, to people that you do not know.

There have been a number of these scratchie-type offers. There was one a number of months ago where some of the terms and conditions outlined in the scratchie contest were not accurate and therefore we were able to require those to be withdrawn and refunds and such-like given, and we put out public notices about that. Although I do not have the particular details of the example that the honourable member has given, I believe it is a recent scratchy competition that has been circulated that the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs is aware of. They have had a preliminary look at the way this particular scratchie competition is being operated, and they believe it adheres to the terms and conditions outlined in that competition so therefore they have not been able to find any breach in relation to that particular contest.

I guess the other word of warning is for people to be very careful and cautious and to read the terms and conditions that apply to contests that they enter. As I said, the consumer affairs office spends a great deal of time, effort and energy trying to make members of the public more aware and informed of their rights and obligations, and also areas in which they can easily be taken advantage of.

It would appear, unfortunately, at this time that that particular scratchie competition is not in breach of any particular legislation or regulation. However, we continue to monitor these schemes, and I just caution people when they go out to try to win their life's fortune that it is a most unlikely thing to do.