Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Beware Churchcastle also called Wynnington Wynners - Word Search phone bill shock

Beware phone bill shock - Churchcastle now running Word Search contests under the name 'Wynnington Wynners'

I've previously written about Churchcastle - they run word search competitions often with a £10,000 prize. These contests appeal to elderly players who like hunting for words but don't have eyesight good enough to read the small print.

When they've found the hidden word entrants must phone a premium rate phone line to enter. Finding the hidden word is easy, spotting the hidden phone charges is less obvious. 

Each phone call costs just over £10. Yes, £10. The phone number is 0906 6350368. These are among the most expensive call types allowed by the phone regulator. The cost per minute is £3.60 + your network operator's service charge. Calls last around 3 minutes.

My elderly relative was caught with the Churchcastle bug. She was among thousands of people convinced they had won a big prize, lured into making further expensive phone calls to claim it. She hadn't won anything. The Regulator for premium rate phone services (then called Phone Pay Plus, now called the PSA Authority) ruled they had broken the rules as the contests were misleading. Churchcastle was fined £800,000.

But now Churchcastle are back in business running word search contests under the brand 'Wynnington Wynners'. These puzzles appear to run in newspapers, online and on TV. Not much has changed. After spotting the hidden word in a grid contestants must make a 3 minute phone call costing over £10 to submit their answer.

THIS CONTEST COSTS £10 to enter online

The fun doesn't stop there though. After entering the contest and leaving their name and address entrants are sent more puzzles in the post. These are often entered in the same prize fund pool. So that means unwittingly players are making another entry for the same £10,000 prize - not a different prize. All the Wynnington organised contests typically run for 2 - 3 months. All the entries go into one pot and there is 1 winner. 

Unfortunately my partner's 96 year old mum has entered. We spotted it on her phone bill. She phoned twice, one call followed immediately by another in late April. The first call lasted 2 minutes 51 seconds and cost £10.32. The second entry took 3 minutes and 1 second and cost £10.92 - those extra 10 seconds cost 60p more to enter the same contest.

The Regulator has strict rules about the use of premium rate phone calls. The cost must be clear, vulnerable people (e.g. children, elderly, ill) must not be targeted. The Authority has the power to levy large fines and stop services if companies break those rules. 

You can check numbers on their website here. The PSA Authority lists contact numbers for customer service in the search results. The rules state these must be standard cost numbers.

I phoned Wynnington to ask them to consider refunding the cost of at least the second call - as it was clearly made because my partner's 96 year old mum didn't think her call had entered correctly. She had no idea it cost £10 for each entry. When I asked her about whether she'd entered she said 'oh yes, I found the word'. When I asked if she knew it cost £10 to enter she gasped, 'oh no, really?'.

Wynnington answered the phone quickly. The operator was helpful and immediately offered to remove her name and address from further mailings - but this could take a  few days, so she may receive further contests in the post. He said he would refer the refund request if I emailed or posted evidence of the call cost (the phone bill). My partner sent this by email. We haven't heard anything yet, but its was only a few days ago.

When I complained about Churchcastle to the Sun (who ran their puzzles) in 2012 the reader services dept instructed them to refund the £120 my partner's mum spent entering their contests. That was the contest Phone Pay Plus later levied the £800,000 fine for - and instructed Churchcastle to pay back anyone who asked. When I complained to Phone Pay Plus they declined to investigate - my complaint was too early, after mine the flood gates opened and they acted.

It may be that the PSA Authority is already monitoring Wynnington. Google searches for my original articles about Churchcastle here and here are receiving more requests than ever. 

If you, or a friend or relative has been caught out, unaware it costs £10 to enter, or that it is unclear entries for the £10,000 prize are pooled together with entries for other contests then you can complain to the PSA Authority. You should also complain to Wynnington on their customer care line 0179 730 9000 (standard call costs apply) or write to them at Flat 23, Shackleton Court, 2 Maritime Quay, London E14 3QF.

According to Companies House Wynnington Limited is a subsiduary of Churchcastle Limited and was registered in October 2012 (the same month Churchcastle was fined). The listed Director of Wynnington is Werner Straub, born 1941 with a contact address in Switzerland. Werner Straub and Thomas Alfred Backer are listed as the 2 current Directors of Churchcastle. Proof that Wynnington and Churchcastle Word Search contests are run by the same company.


Unknown said...

Thanks very much for lifting the lid on this mail scam then and about time too, if I may say so!!! 😂 SC

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this company is legally allowed to run these competitions.
Also has nobody noticed that their recent crossword is incorrect?
They have the answer for popular tv programme in 1972 as Eastenders. Extenders did not start till the 80s.
Surely they should be regulated?

Anonymous said...

I to have recd a letter from Wynningtons apparently based in Rye, I think in Sussex. I entered the Wordsearch Competition a couple of months ago with the correct Word. However, I receive a letter from there every few weeks. The latest on 20 Sept 2017 with the amount I am legible to win now at £11950!. Again there is a Wordsearch Puzzle to solve & to claim phone a 0906 number. Apparently the cost is £3.60 per minute to last no longer than 2 minutes.

It is time this Company is exposed! How much they make from this!!!!! There is a TV series called 'Rip Off Britain' We should write to them perhaps or your local consumer company.

Anonymous said...

Hi keep seeing wordsearch comp on the TCM Channels loom carefully at the dated given whenEastenders fist starred it wasn't. 1972!!!!!!! Think they need o stop it why do people think they'll win !just end up with a hugh phone bill!how can they let these compando these rip off comps!

Anonymous said...

Hi keep seeing wordsearch comp on the TCM Channels look carefully at the date given when Eastenders first started it wasn't 1972! I think Churchcastle should stop this comp and they should be banned using TVads .how can they be allowed when people get big phone bills !

Unknown said...

The word search where they want you to find a tv show first aired in 1972, they have the answer as eastenders. Eastenders was first shown in 1985. As this is the only show in the word search, the answer is wrong, therefore the competition should be void. How many people have wasted their money on these scams. Shame on the TV companies for allowing them to scam money from vulnerable people.

Anonymous said...

The answer on wordsearch is Mastermind for 1972 tv show. The quizzes are overpriced with a lot of after marketing to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Answer is Mastermind and country is Canada, quiz misleading as states word search only on screen for 30 seconds so call now. Leads people to believe only those who saw that ad are likely to enter so you may have a larger chance of winning. Typical cleverly worded ad to provoke an emotional response around greed.

Anonymous said...

if you look at the current comp. they have on true tv during the adds of Ice Road Truckers, ( you could win £19,000 if you guess the correct soap opera in the grid and the clue is the soap first aired in 1972, the answer is Eastenders, but this started in October 1985 Emmerdale started in 1972 so dont waist you money as they are wrong and faulse addvertising and at the costs they are saying does,nt work true becarefull all I have reported them to the A.S.A.

Julie Harding said...

I noticed this too. The answer is emmerdale but it's not on the grid. Avoid at all cost.

Anonymous said...

Win £100,000...Just complete the popular phrase from 1972...."IF IT SEEMS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE....IT....??" Calls cost £10 a second. On a serious note - this "Company" is an disgrace and preys on vulnerable people with a vary dubious competition. Should not be legal.

Lennyshef1 said...

I have just seen the new TV wordsearch from Churchcastle on Channel 4.

It says "clue: find the popular British TV show which first aired in 1972"

I assume they mean Emmerdale Farm


The only TV show in the wordsearch is Eastenders!!!

I have tried to find who to report this to but have so far failed.

This is due to run until 27/02/18 so they will be making a fortune on an unwinnable competition.

Anonymous said...

have freind who has spend many hundreds of pounds on this scam.unaware until the phone bill arrived.this person sits in the cold over xmas in an effort to pay these bills.while these fat scammers sit in luxury in switzerland.close them down.hit them hard where it will hurt with a big fine and bancrupcy

TheChiefExecutive said...

Lennyshef1 - you can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who regulate TV advertising on behalf of Ofcom. In my experirence this is a waste of time. They cannot impose any meaningful sanctions. You should complain to the PSA Authority who regulate the use of premium rate telephone numbers. They can fine companies and shut down their numbers and also instruct them to refund call fees.

The link to file a complaint is here:

TheChiefExecutive said...

Anon - your friend who has run up a bill of hundreds of pounds. Have you written to Wynnington Wynners asking for a refund? You should try this, they may prefer to refund your friend rather than you cause them problems with the regulators of premium rate telephone services.

After doing this you should complain to the regulator for premiun rate telephone services - The PSA Authority. They can impose fines, shut down providers and demand refunds. The link is here:

You MUST complain. The more complaints received the more likely it is that action will be taken to stop these scammers exploiting vulnerable people.

Anonymous said...

The second column from the bottom up is Mastermind which started in 1972. So that is the answer. The obvious program in the grid is Eastenders which would be the wrong answer but its probably what most people put in so have no chance of winning. The ad is repeated over an over so I assume its the same prize. Really should be banned as its a scam and not really a competition at all. Its for the foolish. If it seems too good to be true it really is.

Anonymous said...

This contest and company should not be allowed to air or continue these scams.
the phone in system is rigged to make you fail.
we had the answer to tv show 1972 being Mastermind for £19,000 prize. When correct name is called in over the telephone you are asked to press any key.
When we pressed a key for mastermind being read out, it ignored it and after autovoice stated our answer was incorrect for Eastenders? computer says no... probably to make you phone again to charge you another £10. At least when you text an answer on other companies there is no doubt what you answered and charges are not so excessive! But the only option available here is to call in and charge you £10.
If an ordinary person wanted to set up a business of online prizes, one would struggle to get a gambling licence, comply with endless terms and regs. Companies like this one are allowed to con people and its legal, where is the justice and accountability of the channel to monitor what they air!!!

TheChiefExecutive said...

Anon 30 December. If you are saying that the phone system does not work you should file a complaint with the PSA Authority. You should also contact Wynnington / Churchcastle and request a refund.

As has been mentioned in the comments there appears to be just a single prize across all the competitions that this company is running.

For those that have not read my previous posts Churchcastle received a massive £800,000 fine from PhonePayPlus (the previous regulator of premium rate telephone lines). This was later reduced on appeal to around half that figure.

It is very important that anyone who has a valid complaint - 1. they were mislead into entering 2. The phone system did not work 3. the terms and conditions were not clear or were not prominently displayed makes a complaint to PSA Authority and ASA.

If you saw the ad on a Channel 4 channel you should also register a complaint with Channel 4. They will probably refer you to the ASA but if they receive a lot of complaints they will also most likely check the ad complies with the Advertising Code. They may decide it doesn't.

Unknown said...

I saw this ad today. Eastenders is indeed in the grid.. But so is Mastermind, so I'm assuming Eastenders is just a red herring, designed to lure more people in.

Matthew Baxter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

It's mastermind . Eastenders is there to fool you. I looked on Wikipedia and mastermind started in 72

Steve Archer said...

If you look at the word going down to the left of eastenders and read from the bottom up it's mastermind which started in 72

Steve Archer said...

It's mastermind

mel said...

I have an Autistic son who finds it hard to sleep, i have had a phone bill for 170 pounds more than it should be as he has been phoning these wordsearch games, he has no idea of the scam but i do, i was wondering if anyone could tell me how to firstly try and get my money back and also then make a complaint. I have now put a lock on our house phone!

The Chief Executive said...

Mel - as I wrote above companies who use premium rate telephone services have a legal responsibility to protect the vulnerable. You can complain to the PSA Authority (The Phone Paid Services Authority) they are the regulator and they can instruct companies to refund and they can also impose fines if companies don't stick to the rules. Their web address is or you can phone 0300 30 300 20 (Mon-Fri 9.30-5.00).

If you have a BT phone line you can also ask BT (dial 151) to block premium rate numbers. Once the service is set up you need to program the numbers you wish to block using your telephone keypad.

Let us know how you get on.

Silence said...

Does anyone else find it adds insult to injury these 'prizes' are only £19k (plus an additional £4K OMG!)? I see no evidence anyone wins (they probably do, given they're allowed to exist, but somehow I doubt that it's anybody duped into actually playing the game).

I'm also angry, though not affected, I imagine a lot of people are. I think Churchcastle could actually run fair games and still make a profit (think £1 entry and a decent competition would see far more entries than £19k I imagine -- in particular, repeat entries). suggests you can 'buy' a Wordsearch book and enter for free but IDK if they use 'free' entry via post as a way of subduing ASA.

Unknown said...

I have just received a Certificate of Achievment Award saying i solved the 19.500 Royal challenge Teevision Competition.EastendersI will contact a Solicitor and sue the Company .

s.i.n. said...

They are at it again. some "promises" include that calls will last no more than 2 minutes and costs not exceed £7.40 plus phone company's access charge. Since two calls are involved total cost £14.60. Demand that I accept within 4 days but the draw will not take place before 9th October.
The puzzle is far far too easy and the extra word very obvious, This looks like a method of getting people's private information as there is no promise to keep it confidential - they actually state that winners' details and maybe photograph will be made public.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I entered into one of these. Called an 0906 number that wiped out my credit. It's an obvious scam. When I called I was told to reveal my answer to the word search, but before I could respond it cut off and transferred me to another call that asked me to respond to another question. Then I got cut off. The organisers of this scam should be tracked down snd prosecuted, and the victoms compensated.

Anonymous said...

If you've had any technical issues I suggest you contact their customer service as they will give you a refund. You can also ask them for winner's details if you're interested. They obviously do award the prizes otherwise they would be unable to operate for as long as they have