Tim tried to use a Digital TV coupon at a Philadelphia Radio Shack and was told that he had to provide his name and address in order to redeem it, as per government regulations. Strike out “government” and replace with “imaginary” and you’re closer to the truth. Hmm, did this Radio Shack employee just break the law?
A Radio Shack clerk in Center City Philadelphia just told me it was a government rule that I had to give my name and address info to purchase a DTV analog converter box using one of the $40 coupons. I refused. Now that I’m back at my office, I can’t find anything on the net — neither about the rule, which I doubt exists, nor about Radio Shack’s obnoxious practice, complaints about which one would think would be all over the net. Can you or your commenters shed any light?
Our Consumer Reports DTV expert Paul Eng says, “There is no ‘federal requirement’ to collect such data when making a DTV box purchase.”
For the record, Tim, Radio Shack loves to data mine; it’s part of their business plan. This employee just decided it would be easier to blame the government for his employer’s poor policy. Feel free to use your DTV coupon anywhere you like without needing to give out your personal info.
Consumer Reports has an entire mini-site devoted to DTV issues at consumerreports.org/dtv.
Update: a former employee says that it was indeed required by the company the FTC contracted to handle the coupon program. We’re waiting to hear back from RadioShack and the FTC’s DTV site with an official clarification of some sort.
According to the FAQ on the government’s Retailer Support Center Website, retailers are not required to provide the name and addresses of consumers in order to redeem the coupons.
What information must a retailer provide to get reimbursed for the converter box sales?
Retailers must provide a valid coupon, converter box UPC or SKU, and the retailers merchant ID.
The only instance in which it is appropriate to take down a consumer’s name and address is if the individual is redeeming multiple coupons for a business such as a nursing home, according to the November 2008 issue of the TV Converter Box Coupon Program Bulletin.