BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A new device promises to deliver your favorite TV shows free of charge. But is it too good to be true?
Shelley McMindes was looking for relief from her cable bills when the ad for "Free TV" caught her eye in the newspaper. But a closer look was so disturbing, she Called 4 Action.
"It is not a free TV, it is about getting free channels, through either a satellite or a digital device," McMindes said.
That digital device is called a "Clear-Cast" micro antenna, which as it appears in a TV commercial, is a thin plastic plate with the antenna built in. You stick that device to the inside of your window. It will only pick up broadcast TV stations, many of those carrying network programming. But those broadcast signals have always been free.
"We don't have to have cable, digital, dish on top of your house," McMindes said. "You automatically have it. So this is preying on people who are not educated, and thinking they are getting something for nothing."
The ad says the "Clear-Cast" antenna retails for $68, but it's half price until Wednesday - plus shipping and handling.
Peggy Penders of the Better Business Bureau said, "The BBB did find the product was able to provide some television, but did not live up to the claims that were being made."
Penders also pointed out for consumers with older TVs who switch from cable or satellite, they would also have to buy a digital converter box to watch TV.
"There is not a mention of the converter box that is necessary in order to make an antenna function on any television in this particular ad. So the advertising we feel is deceptive," Penders said.
McMindes added, "So technically, when it says, 'Public is free TV with no monthly bills,' watch out because it is a scam."
The marketer of the "Clear-Cast" declined a phone interview with News 4, but did e-mail us a response to our questions. The company spokesman said the big splash in the paper was not meant to deceive, but rather inform TV viewers there is an alternative to cable and satellite TV.
Below is the question and answer session with the Clear-Cast company spokesman:
1.) Why does the sub-headline say, "Federal law makes TV network giants broadcast Free TV signals," when broadcast TV has always been free - since the dawn of television?
Response: The Federal law being referenced is in regards to the Digital Television Transition. The full statement in the sub-headline reads, "Federal law makes TV network giants broadcast Free TV signals regionally in crystal-clear digital picture." This is a direct reference to this law requiring digital broadcasts. Many cable and satellite subscribers are under the impression that they have no choice but to pay high bills each month in order to watch television. We are reminding them that yes, television broadcasts are free, and yes, this new law guarantees that the signals are presented in digital form.
2.) The ad seems to tell readers that they have to buy this Clear-Cast device to get free TV.
Response: The goal of our advertisement is to educate consumers that there is an alternative to expensive cable and satellite service – over-the-air broadcast television. The advertisement does not state that Clear-Cast is the only antenna that will pick up the over-the-air signals.
3.) Clear-Cast does not provide "clear" pictures for television sets that pre-date digital receivers. So a consumer would have to buy a digital converter, in addition to the Clear-Cast micro antenna. Why isn't that mentioned in the ad?
Response: Over 80 percent of our customers have digital ready televisions. We do offer a converter if the customer is in need of one. When a customer calls in, they are asked questions to determine the age of their TV and whether or not they need a converter box.
4.) The ad lists 134 zip codes in the Buffalo area where viewers could use this device to bring in "crystal clear" pictures. Did you actually do field tests to confirm that?
Response: These zip codes were verified on the government's DTV.gov website as areas where an adequate number of digital TV stations should be received.
5.) How much is shipping and handling?
Response: Shipping and handling is a flat $9.95. People who order large quantities of Clear-Cast Antennas and/or converters still only pay the $9.95 flat rate.
6.) The Better Business Bureau has given Brilliant Built Technologies, the company that markets the Clear-Cast antenna an "F" rating. What is your position on that?
Response: Brilliant Built Technologies takes customer satisfaction very seriously. We are working closely with our local BBB to understand any concerns and rectify any issues as quickly as possible. To date, Brilliant Built Technologies has only five unresolved complaints with the BBB.
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