06.27.2008 12:00 AM
Better Business Bureau Warns of Converter Box Scam
At least one company is misleading consumers regarding DTV converter boxes.

The Better Business Bureau says Ohio-based Universal TechTronics has been running ads nationwide promising free television channels, services and digital TV converter boxes. But the BBB says it’s a “bait and switch tactic” that preys on consumers’ lack of knowledge about the DTV transition.

NAB helped spread word of the BBB warning.

A BBB investigation found that Universal TechTronics is peddling “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. BBB said it believes these are the same boxes consumers can buy in electronics retail stores across the country using the $40 coupons the government is issuing for the boxes, which would make the total cost to consumers about $20 per box.

“The bottom line is that these ads confuse and mislead consumers,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesman. “Unfortunately consumers who do respond may find that not only will they not receive free products and services as implied by the ads, but they will end up paying more than they would have by taking advantage of the really good deal being offered through the DTV coupon program.”

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, BBB said.

Universal TechTronics has several product lines and also does business under the name Heat Surge LLC. Overall, in the past nine months BBB has received nearly 200 complaints about the company’s business practices.

The company 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.

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