ITV ran competitions that left more than 40,000 people with no chance of winning, it has been revealed.
As a result, 41,252 entrants who entered via post were “excluded from the draw” without being notified between 2016 and 2019.
A spokeswoman for the TV 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."
The channel has responded by saying it “deeply regretted” the mistake, and blamed “human error” after the entrants’ names were left off competition spreadsheets.
It will now bring in rules to improve the integrity of postal entries, which were introduced in 2014, and will donate money to charity.
Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, commented: "It is beyond belief that one of our major broadcasters failed to follow proper procedures over a period of three years with more than 40,000 people duped into believing they had a chance of winning.
Ofcom instigated an investigation into the matter after an internal audit prompted ITV to report itself to the broadcast watchdog in August.
Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trialSign up
At the time, a spokesperson said: “The integrity of all viewer competitions run by ITV is a priority for us, therefore any related error is taken seriously.
“The six competitions amount to roughly one third of one per cent of our competitions since 2014, and a tiny fraction of total entries.”
Postal entries cost the price of a stamp.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies