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Poor advice on digital switchover

TV aerial installers prepared to mislead consumers

In the run-up to digital switchover, some TV aerial installers are giving misleading advice that could cause consumers to pay hundreds of pounds for a new TV aerial they don’t need. 

A recent Trading Standards mystery shopping exercise found that more than a quarter of TV aerial installers were prepared to mislead consumers by saying that a new TV aerial would be needed without even looking at their existing TV aerial. Trading Standards Officers posed as consumers, saying they had a three-year-old TV aerial and asking if a new aerial was required in preparation for the digital switchover. 

After digital switchover, consumers will only be able to watch television if they have digital TV such as Freeview, Sky or Virgin Media cable. Of these, only Freeview signals require a TV aerial.

Digital switchover aerial requirements

According to Digital UK, the independent organisation responsible for managing digital switchover, only a minority of households will need a new aerial to watch Freeview digital TV after the switchover. Even if your TV aerial isn’t good enough to receive a good Freeview signal now, the Freeview signal is being boosted during the switchover process. This means that, as a rule of thumb, if you receive a good analogue TV picture now, you should get a good Freeview TV picture after digital switchover.

Fortunately, most of the TV aerial installers tested by Trading Standards Officers rightly said that they would need to look at the condition of the aerial to make a judgement, and said that a new TV aerial might not be required.

David Bull, Head of Leicestershire County Council Trading Standards Service, said: ‘There are many good and honest aerial installers, but there are some who will aim to catch out unsuspecting and vulnerable consumers particularly in the light of the fast approaching digital switch over. Trading Standards can and will take action against businesses who deliberately deceive Leicestershire consumers.’

Getting good aerial advice

Consumers can carry out a test on teletext (for how to carry out an aerial test, see the Digital UK website) to check if they’re likely to need a new aerial after digital switchover. For a second opinion on whether they’ll need a new TV aerial after digital switchover, consumers can get their aerial checked by a Digital UK registered digital installer. Which? members can check Which? local for recommended aerial installers in their area. 

Which? Principal Researcher Ceri Stanaway says: ‘It’s worrying that a significant number of TV aerial installers are giving bad advice in the run-up to digital switchover. Consumers are already going to have to pay for new equipment to convert their TVs to digital – the last thing they need is to be landed with an extra expense for an unnecessary TV aerial. 

‘If you’re concerned enough about your TV signal to think you might need a new TV aerial after digital switchover, ask the advice of a Digital UK registered digital installer or one that’s recommended on Which? local – and as with all tradespeople, we’d recommend getting three quotes before proceeding with any work.’

Following the survey, Trading Standards have written to over 50 businesses to promote advice from the Office of Communications (OFCOM) about aerial usage and the digital switchover. Installers have also been encouraged to report any businesses that they know to be trading unfairly.

Consumers can get further advice on whether they need a new aerial from Digital UK on 0845 650 50 50 or by visiting www.digitaluk.co.uk. They can also report anonymously at www.ripofftipoff.net any business they suspect is trading unfairly.

More advice on digital switchover

Consumers who are concerned about what the digital switchover means for them should check the digital TV advice and product reviews on www.which.co.uk. Which? has – from Freeview to a Sky subscription, plus a detailed guide to digital switchover. If you want or need to upgrade your TV equipment to digital, take a look at the Which? product reviews on LCD and plasma TVs, Freeview and Freesat set top boxes, PVRs and DVD recorders.


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