U.S. PIRG: Some Retailers Passing On Bad DTV Info

Flaws Found at All of the Top Five Retailers in the Washington, D.C., Area

According to a U.S. Public Interest Research Group study outlined at a Hill hearing Wednesday, Washington, D.C.-area retail-store employees have been giving out inaccurate or misleading information on the digital-TV transition.

U.S. PIRG staff attorney Amina Fazlullah told legislators on the Senate Special Committee on Aging that neither government nor industry are doing enough to educate consumers.

U.S. PIRG surveyed the top five electronic retailers in the D.C. area -- interviewing clerks and supervisors -- she said, and as of August, personnel at all five were giving out inaccurate or misleading information, with some saying that they didn't know anything about the converter-box program and "many" saying that a new TV would be required to get a signal after the transition.

At one Virginia Wal-Mart, Fazlullah said, PIRG surveyors were told that they would have to buy an HDTV set or sign up for cable. A Best Buy employee said that all of the new signals would be high-definition, and that they would need an HDTV set or an HDTV tuner to get an over-the-air signal.

Employees of a Virginia Target store, she added, knew about the converter boxes but not about the subsidized coupons and argued that a DTV set would be cheaper than a converter.

She said participation by industry in the education efforts should be "mandated and fully monitored."