ITV has been found in breach of broadcasting rules with several of its on-air competitions, TV watchdog Ofcom has ruled.
Problems with postal entries were identified on a number of competitions airing across shows including Good Morning Britain, Lorraine, This Morning, Loose Women, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, La Vuelta and X Factor: The Band.
The investigation was sparked earlier this year after ITV admitted some free postal entries weren’t included in a number of prize draws as a result of “human error by ITV staff” putting information on to a spreadsheet.
In its findings, Ofcom said that “in all cases, some viewers who participated using the postal entry route had no chance of being selected to win the competition”.
A spokesperson for the watchdog said: “Our investigation found that people who entered these competitions by post were excluded from the draw, with no chance of winning.
“ITV failed to follow proper procedures and this led to a clear breach of our rules, which require all broadcast competitions to be conducted fairly.”
HuffPost UK has contacted ITV for comment and is awaiting a response.
It previously said it had “implemented measures to address the problem”, adding in a statement (via BBC News): “The integrity of all viewer competitions run by ITV is an absolute priority for us.
“However, it is important to note the scale and nature of this particular issue, which affected only a very small number of our viewer competitions over a number of years.”
The broadcaster insisted the problem only affected 0.3% of its competitions since 2014, and the postal entries in question were a “tiny fraction” of all the entries received.
Ofcom said it recognised “the proactive way in which ITV dealt with the issue by notifying Ofcom and immediately setting about to determine the extent and cause of the problem”.
But it said the broadcaster “failed to take reasonable care through its processes to ensure the competitions were conducted in such ways as to provide fair and consistent treatment of all eligible entries”.
It is not the first time the broadcaster has been in hot water over its on-air competitions.
In 2007, ITV and fellow broadcasters the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 were at the centre of what became known as the premium-rate phone-in scandal, when allegations of misconduct were levelled against their use of premium-rate services.
Ofcom and the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services conducted investigations into phone-in competitions and public votes, resulting in millions of pounds worth of fines and a reform in the use of premium-rate numbers.
ITV was hit with a fine totalling £5.6 million for some of the most serious breaches of the broadcasting code, while breakfast broadcaster GMTV was also fined £2 million.
Separately, ITV pledged an additional £7.8 million for viewer compensation and to charity.