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April 16, 2012

Follow-up: Deal or No Deal’s Surprise Texting Charges

Filed under: Internet,Sweepstakes — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:36 am

deal or no deal Five years ago, Mouse Print* railed against a promotion run on NBC’s Deal or No Deal game show (see original story) whereby viewers could win $10,000 or $20,000 if they correctly guessed which of six briefcases the money was hidden in.

The problem was this: in order to play, you had to text in your answer with your cellphone, and only in fine print was it disclosed that each guess would cost you 99 cents as a premium text message charge. NBC raked in some $45 million from this promotion.

Under the laws of most states, any private venture where you have to pay a price for the chance of a prize is considered an illegal lottery. There was also an inconspicuously disclosed means to play for free. However, since that method required Internet access, and at that time about a third of homes did not have Internat at home, such a free means of entry might not have been sufficient to take the promotion out the realm of being a lottery.

Now, five years later, after NBC and the show’s producers were sued (as well as Fox for its lottery-like promotion on American Idol), the companies have settled the cases.

Everyone who paid 99 cents per call is now entitled to a refund.


For the Deal or No Deal Lucky Case Game, which aired between December 2005 and February 2008, you can file your claim here.

For American Idol’s Challenge Game, which aired Feb. – May 2007, you can file your claim here.

The filing deadline is August 10, 2012.

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  1. So, if this was illegal, will the winners need to give the prize money back?

    And it’s funny, most every state has a lottery which is paying a price for the chance to win a prize, but any other gambling of this sort is illegal.

    Comment by Jim — April 16, 2012 @ 10:20 am
  2. @Jim: I think the difference is lottery companies have to jump through a lot of regulatory hoops to be granted permission to operate lotteries while the media companies that operated these lottery-like promotions haven’t though I don’t understand what’s stopping them from trying to set up a gambling subsidiary given the profitability of the scheme.

    Comment by anonymous — April 16, 2012 @ 11:37 am
  3. Does no one have integrity any more?

    Comment by Karen — April 16, 2012 @ 1:08 pm
  4. I remember this. I read the fine print and participated one time on the Internet. Can’t remember if you could read the fine print on the screen or if I had to find that on a website.

    Comment by Jason — April 16, 2012 @ 8:22 pm
  5. OK I admit I fell for the lucky case scam. Out of curiosity I clicked the claim form. They want to know, in addition to the phone number used and the provider, how many times a text was sent. Seriously? I barely remember the number I used I cannot remember how many times I used this service.

    Edgar replies: That is probably the most important question because you are going to get a refund for EACH call you made.

    Comment by Stephanie — April 19, 2012 @ 1:29 am

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