TRADING standards chiefs today delivered a grim warning to shoppers after ‘shocking’ results of a sting involving television retailers and aerial installers.

Officers warned that consumers were being given the wrong information about the forthcoming digital switchover and urged them to wise up before visiting shops.

It follows an undercover operation in which ‘mystery shoppers’ telephoned 14 aerial installers and visited 15 electrical retailers to find out what they were telling prospective customers about the switch.

Analogue television signals will be switched off when digital television comes to Dorset. Areas of West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland which receive Westcountry TV will be the first to get digital from next May.

After this time, televisions not capable of receiving a digital signal will no longer pick up channels.

There are ways of resolving this, such as buying a Freeview box for about £20.

But the sting found that some retailers and aerial installers gave misleading information about what was needed.

Dorset County Council trading standards officers have pledged to work with retailers to ensure the service improves.

Officers found that:

  • Nine of the 14 aerial installers surveyed gave bad or misleading advice, suggesting that people are likely to need a new aerial. Communica-tions watchdog Ofcom believes only five per cent of homes will need an upgrade
  • Five installers out of 14 said the mystery shopper would need a ‘digital aerial’, when there is no such thing
  • Only two installers pointed the mystery shopper to the test card on Page 284 of Teletext which gives a good indication whether an aerial upgrade is needed
  • Only four stores out of 15 gave 100 per cent correct advice
  • Although there is no need to buy a new television set to receive a digital signal one store recommended a new television costing £1,000
  • Seven of 11 stores gave the wrong advice about converting televisions without scart sockets
  • Knowledge of the date of switchover is patchy Dorset County Council head of regulatory services Bill Jaggs said the survey made ‘depressing reading’.

And the organisation leading the switchover branded the results ‘shocking’.

South West manager of Digital UK Bill Taylor said: “It’s clear that only a tiny minority of retailers and aerial installers manage to give completely accurate advice about digital TV switchover.

“It’s absolutely essential that no one is pressured into buying equipment they do not need.

“New training programmes are available for shop staff and aerial installers. They should use them and improve their service.”

Trading Standards officers are keen to educate people about the switchover so they are armed with the correct information when shopping.

They say it is extremely unlikely people will need a new television set and that not everyone will need a new aerial.

For help and advice contact Digital UK on 08456 505050.