Is it REALLY a miracle TV box?

July 9, 2008 8:43:54 AM PDT
You may have seen a tempting ad in your local newspaper. It offers a free 'miracle' TV box. But as you might imagine, there is a catch to this deal. The ad is running in newspapers nationwide. In it, the company claims to offer amazing new boxes called Miracle ClearView TV for free!

Andy Goode from the Better Business Bureau says, "What they're promising is a box that will take the new digital signal and convert it to TVs that can only accept an analog signal."

Indeed the ad is for a digital TV converter box, which some consumers will need when stations stop broadcasting analog signals in February 2009. And while the company - Universal Techtronics - calls its box a miracle, the Better Business Bureau isn't so sure there's anything miraculous about it.

"This is the same box or a similar box as what you can buy in the store," says Goode.

And to get Universal Techtronics' free box you have to buy a five-year warranty from the company!

"They charge 59-dollars in order for a person to receive a five-year warranty and then they charge shipping and handling charges."

So your total ends up being at least 68-dollars!

Goode says, "This appears to be a deceptive practice... a free offer should never come with strings attached."

Remember, the government will send you two coupons worth 40-dollars each that you can put toward the purchase of a converter box. You can get a box for as low as 40-dollars, which would make your box really free.

But Universal Techtronics says its offer makes it so you don't have to wait until you get a government coupon. It also says it offers a better converter box option than most and stands behind its product with the best warranty available. Universal says it believes it offers a very competitive package, and points out that it offers a 5-year warranty where as the company claims most retail boxes come with only a 1-year warranty for 50-dollars.

Universal Techtronics also makes a heater called Heat Surge. You may remember the ad for it. The company says THAT product is a 'miracle', too!

Jean Szuchan got one after seeing an ad for it in the paper. "They say the heater is free and you're actually just buying the case."

That's right. The ad said the miracle, hi-tech heaters were absolutely free as well! But again, there was a big *if* to get the free heater - you had to buy the Amish fireplace mantel. Jean ended up paying 431-dollars!

The company Universal Techtronics is no longer running the heater ad, but here's what Jean has to say about her experience with Heat Surge and the claims Universal put out for this product - "Don't be taken in by ads like this. I guess that's my advice to people."

Back to the TV boxes now... The company also tells me its Box is better than most because Universal's converter box features analog pass-through, an item present on approximately 15-percent of available converter boxes.

Now, analog pass-through will allow consumers to continue to get any small, local stations that do NOT convert to digital by February 2009. But the truth is the vast majority of stations will be converting, so most consumers aren't looking for that feature anyway.

The BBB says about 200 people have filed complaints against Universal Techtronics since the company opened in 2007, and it does have an unsatisfactory record.