Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Carmel on the Case: DTV Coupons
There's a huge glitch in the nationwide switch to digital TV. You may think you're ready, but millions of TV viewers may be left in the dark. Seven's Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- If you are procrastinating putting off buying your digital converter box, you may have a big surprise at the cashier.
Many people did the right thing. They ordered a government coupon good for $40 off the converter box needed to make antenna TVs run after the switch to digital. Many already have their coupons in hand. Exactly like, the feds say, TV watchers should.
Todd Sedmak, U.S Department of Commerce: "We just really encourage people to request the coupons."
But most figured there was no rush to actually go to the store to buy the box since the switch doesn't officially happen until next year.
Viky Cognini, Aventura Best Buy: "Sometimes, you know, they'll just put them in their pockets or shove them somewhere, and when they come into the store, you know, they realize that it's actually expired."
Seven News found millions of those converter box coupons across the country, like Jacquelyn Mercer's, are now worthless.
Jacalyn Mercer: "A royal goof-up on the part of somebody on the federal level."
The coupons expire. Ninety days after they are mailed, they're useless. Simply put, it's use them or lose them.
Todd Sedmak: "Congress created the law, and we're implementing the program."
But we obtained records which show that across the nation, eight and a half million people who requested coupons on-line or by phone now can't use them.
Joe Kelsey: "We believe this is a giant problem and consumers are going to be frustrated. They're right to be confused."
Here in Florida, 1.4 million coupons were requested, but just under half a million have been redeemed. In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, 354,000 coupons were requested, of those, 112,000 have been used, but 118,000 have expired.
Jacalyn Mercer: "I think it's crazy, myself."
And what's worse, if you try to get another coupon, the answer is no. Federal rules allow one per address, period, and there's nothing stores can do.
Viky Cognini, Aventura Best Buy: "We can't honor them because it's a government-sponsored coupon, not a Best Buy sponsored coupon."
But a government worker told Jacalyn there is a way around it. She was told to ask friends and family who don't need coupons to order some, and then give them to her. Now she's got more than she can use, and she's off to buy her converter, but she fears the coupon system will leave other viewers in the dark.
Jacalyn Mercer: "Ninety days is still not fair to the consumer. Those refund cards should be good through the whole transition."
If you want to request your coupon you can get the link from our website.
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