This vacuum cleaner scam will cost you

Tony Levene
by Lovemoney Staff Tony Levene on 26 January 2013  |  Comments 12 comments

Win the chance to review this vacuum cleaner, and you can keep it afterwards! But the significant cost of entering is hidden away...

This vacuum cleaner scam will cost you

Vacuum cleaning my home is not my idea of a fun.  It's a view I'm sure I share with most people. But it is a chore which has to be done.

And vacuum cleaners are hardly exciting. There has been just one significant technological advance in the past 80 years – the advent of the Dyson bagless cleaner, which came to the UK exactly 20 years ago. Since then, there have been just small improvements.

Most machines are incredibly reliable, and can last for decades. So we rarely buy new ones and we never discuss them with our friends in the way we might talk about the merits of Apple against Android on our latest handheld device.

They are distress purchases – we buy them because we have to, not because we enjoy shopping for them. So given this background of durability and lack of innovation, why does anyone send me an email headed “Tony Test and keep a new Vax vacuum”?

Rewarded for your review

The email sender said my opinion was needed and I would be rewarded for it – I could keep the machine if I was selected and used the product for seven days, following that with a  “thorough written review”.

I am confused. All vacuum cleaners are thoroughly tested by manufacturers and by independent organisations such as Which? They examine how machines pick up various forms of dirt on different surfaces; they work out how portable a model might be; and they test motors and switches by clicking them on and off thousands of times.

Whereas individuals will probably only use their cleaner once or twice a week. And what am I supposed to write about my experience? That it worked? Or do I undertake a PhD thesis? 

The particular model is hard to identity from the description and photo, but something similar retails around £140, making it one of the more expensive cleaners on the market. You can find an own-brand vacuum at Argos for as little as £19.99.

The email says I can register for free. But as far as the promoters go, that's where they expect “free” to end.  I enter my email address and then I am directed to a page where I can answer a basic question such as “Who makes the Dyson cleaner – Dyson or Hoover” or, for a similar chance to “test” an Iphone, it's “who makes it – Apple or Samsung”.  There is also the same sort of thing for a MacBook.

Here comes the cost...

I have to click OK to accept the terms and conditions and enter a valid mobile phone number. That number is not, as you might think, so I can be contacted day and night on my vacuuming views, but – and this is in the small print – so I can be billed on my phone. It says: “Service costs £3 per question played and a £4.50 sign up fee. You will receive an additional £1.50 charge for a reminder message tomorrow.”

I do not give my mobile number.

I do not want to pay a maximum £9.00 to be in with a chance of winning something that I don't really need or want and hardly costs a fortune.

What are my chances of winning? I have no idea. I don't know how many cleaners are on offer, let alone how many entrants there are. There is a computerised draw once a month.

So as soon as you enter your phone number, you are paying big money – unless you read the small print first. The promoters of this scheme obviously hope you just tick to say you have read everything, but do not work your way through the small print; which is what we mostly do.

Hidden free entry

These lottery schemes have to offer a form of no-cost entry. It is buried in the terms and conditions – you can send a free email to the promoters with your details, which I did not bother to do as I get enough of these messages anyway. Registration on the website is hidden behind a proxy service.

The website small print makes it clear that it has no connection whatsoever with any of the manufacturers (or importers or retailers) of the products on offer for “testing”. So the manufacturers, that you would think they would want to be the first to know test results and problems, are totally out of this loop. As far as they are concerned, someone has bought one of their cleaners and is trying to sell it in a way and for a price far from the accepted high street model.

Don't fall for this one.

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Comments (12)

  • nickpike
    Love rating 314
    nickpike said

    Thanks. I learnt something there about giving the phone number.

    Report on 26 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  3 loves
  • Latent
    Love rating 23
    Latent said

    You cannot blame these scammers for trying it on when we have the scum running the country allowing these scams to be operated.

    Report on 26 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Overtone
    Love rating 46
    Overtone said

    You CAN blame these scammers. They are dishonest. What anyone thinks about the people running the country is unconnected with that.

    I would like to see action taken more quickly against many kinds of scammers. Are these people actually breaking a law? If "the authorities" - I don't know which ones - moved to shut down their website, I think there are plenty of people who would object because it was an attack on the freedom of the internet, or something.

    We could say that Tony Levene, who was contacted by email and invited to enter his mobile number, should have reported them to somebody, but again I'm not sure to whom. OFCOM perhaps. Have they got powers to shut these people down? Should they have?

    Report on 26 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • electricblue
    Love rating 785
    electricblue said


    Politicians won't come to wipe your botty then?

    Report on 26 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • oldhenry
    Love rating 350
    oldhenry said

    Well reported . But I would imagine these types of scam are what Cameron calls 'growth in the economy'.

    Most people seem to be out to cheat and lie rather than earn a honest living , why? Because there are few honest livings left that will pay the bills and the taxes that Cameron wants.

    It will get much worse as austerity really bites and we become a third world country.

    Report on 26 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • Iamcoldsteve
    Love rating 331
    Iamcoldsteve said

    And Labour did such a great job of mortgaging the country up to the hilt, that these austerity measures are needed.

    It was the same in the 70's - when Labour were last in power for a number of years. Pattern forming????

    Report on 26 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • PoohBah
    Love rating 26
    PoohBah said

    Oh dear. It didn't take long for this thread on a useful topic to be hijacked by the political opportunists.

    Report on 26 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • electricblue
    Love rating 785
    electricblue said

    More people employed in the UK than ever, despite a huge influx of immigrants under Labour. The moaners still clueless as to how powerful the UK really is in terms of manufacturing and science - and the numpties expect the state to protect them from every stupid decision they make. Definitely a pattern.

    'Useful topic' ? - well in the context of being advised to read the small print, not to enter competitions with little chance of winning and not to respond to anything that can bill you on your mobile - yes. I did think we'd been told that hundreds of times before. When I taught my kids how to cross the road, I didn't have to give the same instructions for every colour and type of vehicle.

    Report on 27 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Arblaster
    Love rating 46
    Arblaster said

    "The authorities - I don't know which ones."

    I do. If you read The Day of the Triffids you will hear the expression " when THEY come to clean the mess up."

    Try doing something for yourselves. You might even get to enjoy it.

    Report on 27 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • sodit
    Love rating 137
    sodit said

    The real problem is the way in which your mobile phone can be billed.

    Once upon a time, when you used the telephone you were billed for the calls you made. Everyone knew the cost of the call, and if you wanted to make a long distance call, you had to ring the operator to be put through, and you knew that the call would cost more.

    Then along came subscriber trunk dialling - and everyone knew the cost per minute of a local call, and knew that if they had to dial a number starting with an "0", it would cost more.

    Now we have a plethora of numbers. Calls to "07" numbers cost more, but calls to "087" numbers and "09" numbers are corrupt, as the recipient of the call get a kickback from the telephone company for bumping up the bill. As a result these can be outrageously expensive.

    Now we have companies repeatedly billing one's mobile phone for things like that described in the article, and like the Crazy Frog screensaver.

    The solution is simple. Do away with "087" and "09" numbers... if people want to spend money over the phone they can make a phone call, speak to the recipient and leave their credit card details. Same with the mobile phones - the user should only be billed for the cost of their calls, and it they want to spend more, they can give their counterparty their credit card details.

    I was reading recently of someone who took their smart phone with them overseas, and never used it... only to find on their return a phone bill for the best part of £1000 - the phone itself had been downloading data to update its software or whatever, and he was paying through the nose at roaming rates.

    All it needs is a short Act of Parliament to stop these abuses, but of course we won't get one, as it is a measure that would make life better.

    Report on 28 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • electricblue
    Love rating 785
    electricblue said

    Almost 30 million employed in the UK and according to Oldhenry most of them are not earning an honest living. I don't know where his head is, but I think it must be very dark for him if it's where I suspect.....

    Report on 28 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • CuNNaXXa
    Love rating 415
    CuNNaXXa said

    The real issue is that of protecting the consumer. What protection is there for ensuring that the person entering the phone number is the owner of that number? It won't be the first time that someone has been stung because someone else entered their mobile number.

    So, what protection do I have if someone else enters my own number into a website, then I start getting billed?

    Surely they should only be allowed to accept a number from the phone itself, to verify that they have reasonable permission to enter the number.

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love

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