Skip to main content

Best Buy: No Coupons for Converter Boxes Till ‘Closer to April’

Michael Vitelli, a Best Buy senior vice president, told Congress Wednesday his company would not have its systems ready to process the $40 federal coupons for digital-to-analog converter boxes until “closer to April 1 than January 1.”

Vitelli said the company based its estimate on discussions with IBM, the contractor handling the coupon program, toward modifying and testing its point-of-sale systems to handle the coupons and prevent fraud.

“There is still some information we are waiting to receive that is required for successful implementation of the coupon solution,” Vitelli stated in his written testimony to the House Telecommunications Subcommittee.

At the panel’s hearing on the DTV transition, Vitelli also described various educational measures Best Buy was taking to inform the public and its own staff about the converter boxes.

Vitelli also said that Best Buy would be unable to accommodate the coupon in sales through its Web site.

No retailers are required to sell the converters—which will enable viewers with analog TV sets to continue watching after full-power analog broadcasts end in February 2009—but by law, viewers may apply for the coupons starting Jan.1, and the coupons expire 90 days after issuance.

A spokesman for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the agency overseeing the program, said it would accept applications for the coupons on starting Jan. 1 as planned, but would not send a given coupon out until coupon-eligible converter boxes were available in that applicants’ area.

Just two weeks ago, Best Buy announced it had ceased (as of Oct. 1) sales of analog tuner products and other steps it was taking to assist the transition.

Other major retailers Target, Circuit City and RadioShack have also committed to participating in the coupon program, but have not identified exact start dates. RadioShack, which touts its 6,000 stores as places that demystify technology for consumers, announced Sept. 25 that it saw the program as an opportunity to take the lead in the area.