Commissioner's Blog: Reception issues for TV buyers
With Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Changes to the way several new TV channels broadcast is causing reception issues for some television users, and sellers of TVs or set top boxes should attune to this.
Until recently, all networks were broadcasting in either standard definition or high definition using the MPEG-2 video format. Now, however, some high definition channels including Channel 9’s new Channel 90, Seven’s new 7Flix on Channel 76 and the Racing Channel on 78 have begun broadcasting high definition using the new MPEG-4 format, which provides a higher quality picture but uses less bandwidth.
There are plans for other channels to begin using the new MPEG-4 format.
Some TVs and set top boxes, which are able to receive high definition signals, may not be compatible with this new format meaning they are unable to receive Nine HD, 7Flix, or the Racing Channel or future HD channels. Nine is still broadcasting its programing in standard definition on Channel 9 for those who are not able to view HD Channel 90.
There are consumers who purchased HD TV’s some time ago and these TV’s may not be capable of playing MPEG-4.
Generally, TVs and set top boxes purchased before 2010 will not be compatible with MPEG-4. Products sold now with the Freeview logo displayed should be MPEG-4 compatible.
Picking up the new channels requires a re-scan of your TV’s tuner which can be found in the setup menu. Only then will you find out if your TV supports the MPEG-4 format.
If, after a re-scan, your current TV does not pick up all the channels and the manufacturer cannot resolve it, you will either need to purchase a new TV or opt for the cheaper and simpler solution and buy a new set top box which supports the new format. Set top boxes can cost as little as $30.
Consumers buying TVs or set top boxes today have a reasonable expectation that the devices will be able to access all stations currently broadcasting in all formats. It would be advisable, however, to double check to make sure they are compatible with the MPEG-4 format. Retailers should be advising consumers whether or not they will be able to access all stations.
Some TV buyers may opt for a lower priced model with the knowledge that not all channels will be available but the retailer needs to provide that information before making the decision to purchase.
If consumers are not aware that they are purchasing a TV that is not compatible with MPEG-4, they will likely be able to claim a remedy under the Australian Consumer Law. Options may include a repair or upgrade to the operating system, a replacement with a compatible product or a refund.
For those who bought TVs recently, their claim may depend on whether the TV channels using the new format were on air at the time of purchase. If you purchased a TV prior to the new technology being active, you may not be able to seek redress.
Western Australians can contact Consumer Protection for assistance by emailing email@example.com or calling 1300 30 40 54.