DTV converter ‘deal’ preys on confusion

Monday, June 30, 2008

 

The conversion from analog to digital TV broadcasts is confusing enough without deceptive offers. According to the Better Business Bureau, at least one company is pushing the limits in a nationwide advertising campaign.

A BBB investigation found that Universal TechTronics is selling "five-year warranties" for $59 that must be purchased with their "free" digital TV converter boxes. With shipping and handling fees rolled in, the total cost per box is nearly $100.

While there are no "free" converter boxes to help people who view TV using a set-top or roof antenna to get TV signals after Feb. 17, 2009, the government is giving out coupons worth $40 on a converter box. The boxes run about $60-$80 at electronics stores.

BBB believes Universal TechTronics is selling the same boxes consumers can buy in electronics retail stores using a $40 discount coupon from the U.S. government. This means consumers with a coupon can get a box for about $20-$40 per box. (See below for a link to request a coupon.)

BBB says Universal TechTronics' ads imply that their converter boxes are free and will provide free channel reception, similar to the type of services consumers receive through cable or satellite providers. Ads state, "No Bills: New ClearView TV receives free channels, no need to pay for cable to get the new digital picture quality and sound," and "Public to Get Free TV Without Gov't Coupon!" Additionally, the ads use the term "Miracle ClearView TV" to disguise the product and further deceive consumers. Universal TechTronics has several product lines and also does business under the name Heat Surge LLC.

In the past nine months BBB has received close to 200 complaints about this company’s business practices. Universal TechTronics has received an unsatisfactory rating from BBB due to its pattern of complaints. To date, complaints against the company concern slow delivery or non-receipt of product, difficulty reaching customer service representatives, delays in obtaining refunds after returning merchandise, product quality issues and advertising claims.

For more information on the DTV transition, which calls for analog TV broadcasts to end by February 2009, see the FCC DTV web site, or the DTV Transition Coalition web site.

If you currently receive analog television over the air or via an antenna, you’ll need to take action to continue watching your favorite stations. TVs accessing "pay" television service such as cable or satellite aren't likely to be affected by the switch.

Click here to apply for the $40 U.S. Government coupons for DTV converter boxes.

If you have a complaint about the digital TV transition, click here to tell us your story.

 

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