Deal or No Deal is a big TV hit, but the millions of viewers who play their weekly “Lucky Case Game” may not be aware of all the charges associated it.
Four times during each program viewers are urged to grab their cellphones and text the number of the case (one through six) that has $10,000 or $20,000 hidden in it. One winner will be chosen by the end of the program from all those who guess the correct numbered case, and that person gets the cash prize.
“$.99 per text msg plus standard text messaging charges.Go to nbc.com/DOND to enter for free…”
Most people cannot read that disclosure because of its small size and the limited time it appears on the screen. So wouldn’t an oral disclosure of the price make sense and be fair? This show makes no such oral disclosure of the price in two out of the four times it promotes the sweepstakes.
In addition, there are additional charges that may wind up on your cell bill that are not disclosed during the TV program at all, and are only revealed in the official rules on the NBC website:
“In addition, a premium text message charge of $.99 will apply to all text messages sent and received in connection with the Promotion. This charge will be billed on your wireless phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. You will receive a “thank you” text message that night including a DEAL OR NO DEAL Insider message. This message provides additional information about the Show, its host and/or products. The following day, you will receive a text message giving you the ability to opt-in to an SMS-based message program keeping you up to date on the latest cool Show information and more. You may stop receiving text messages at any time by responding “end”, “stop” or “quit” to any of the messages.”
So in addition to the 99¢ premium charge, your cell company will bill you for three separate text messages. The latter two are most likely promotional messages related to the show. For those without an unlimited texting plan, sending that one original text message will wind up costing anywhere from $1.14 to $1.44 (plus tax) depending on the price you are charged by your cell provider for text messaging. One can only hope that the 99¢ charge does not apply to each message “sent and received.”
The public is spending a fortune on TV voting and games promotions. In fact, about $17 million was raked in by NBC on the Deal or No Deal “Lucky Case Game” just in the first three months of 2007. That one game accounts for nearly half the money spent in the US on all such premium texting promotions. [See story.]
But isn’t the Deal or No Deal game and other similar promotions tantamount to gambling? You are paying a price for the chance of a prize, which is the definition of a “lottery” in most states, and most private companies are not allowed to conduct lotteries. Promotions like this are generally not considered lotteries if they offer a “no purchase necessary” means of playing the game. NBC does that, but in MrConsumer’s view, offering to play the game for free only via the Internet fails as a viable alternate means because one in four households do not have Internet access (and their only way to play is to pay via cellphone).
A similar text messaging promotion is currently being challenged in court in Georgia by a plaintiff who is claiming that the game on NBC’s Apprentice, “Get Rich with Trump” constituted an illegal lottery, even though it had a “no purchase necessary” means of entry. (See previous Mouse Print posting, and this newsletter [pdf].)
Is it any surprise, then, that NBC now says their Deal or No Deal game is not open to residents of Georgia?