Retailers misleading shoppers about DTV transition, survey says

A national consumer advocacy group has found that retail sales clerks are offering consumers inaccurate or misleading information about next February’s DTV transition.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) conducted what it describes as a “secret shopper” survey at 132 electronics stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin to determine whether big electronics retailers were properly preparing the public for the DTV transition. The group laid out its finding in “Mixed Signals: How Retailers Mislead Consumers on the Digital Television (DTV) Transition.”

The report found that accurate information about the transition is hard to come by in most retail stores. Next year’s change does not require any household to purchase a new TV set. Those wishing to continue to use their analog sets will only need a government-subsidized converter box and an antenna. However, some sales clerks tried to persuade PIRG’s “secret shoppers” to buy new digital televisions or premium converters, which aren’t covered by the government’s coupon program.

Nationally, almost half of sales staff surveyed did not provide accurate information on the date the transition would take place, the survey found. Answers ranged from “sometime soon” to “probably not until 2010.”

Nationally, the organization found:

  • 81 percent of sales staff provided inaccurate information about converter boxes;
  • 78 percent of sales staff provided inaccurate information about the coupon program;
  • 42 percent of sales staff provided inaccurate information about the transition date;
  • 20 percent of sales staff tried to up sell “secret surveyors” to DTVs or upscale converter boxes.

To read the full report, visit