Ofcom has ruled that ITV violates broadcasting rules by running a competition in which more than 40,000 entrants have no chance of winning.
TV Watchdog Good Morning Britain, Lorraine, The Morning, Loose Women, Ant & Dis’s Sunday Night Takeo, La Vuelta and X Factor: The Band competed throughout the competition.
It said there was no chance of winning entry to about 41,252 contests between 2016 and 2019.
A spokesman for Ofcom said: “Our investigation found that the people who took part in these competitions in the post were eliminated from the draw without any chance of winning.
“ITV failed to follow due process and this resulted in a clear violation of our rules, which requires that all broadcast competitions be conducted fairly.”
Contests invite visitors to enter via phone, text message, ITV’s website or post, but phone, text message and online entries usually cost a premium rate, but post entrants only have to pay a stamp price.
ITV staff has been blamed for the “human error”, tasked with keeping information in a spreadsheet, adding that it has “deeply regretted” the mistake.
The broadcaster said that since the introduction of postal entry in 2014, it has reviewed competitive competitions and the number of contests was less than 1%.
It plans to improve the post entry system and intends to donate money to a charity as a “sincere remorse”.
Julian Knight, president of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “It’s unbelievable that one of our big broadcasters failed to follow the proper procedure in three years and more than 40,000 people sank their faith.
“These contests involved some of ITV’s biggest brands, including Good Morning Britain, and ITV is now right to refer to Ofcom itself, clearing the whole level of infringement.
“People must be able to trust our public service broadcasters – failure at this level can damage that trust.”