1.1 Ofcom commissioned Continental Research to conduct a mystery shopping exercise amongst retailers of HD Ready TV sets.
1.2 We wanted to test what advice retailers give consumers about how to get HDTV services.
1.3 The information provided to shoppers about HD Ready TV sets was accurate in the majority of cases. But there was significant confusion amongst some retail staff over the current and future availability of HD services on Freeview, and - to a lesser extent - terrestrial TV.
1.4 Mystery shoppers felt that when inaccurate information was provided, it was largely as a result of poorly trained (or poorly informed) sales staff, rather than an attempt to deliberately mislead consumers.
1.5 The level and accuracy of information sales staff gave varied considerably from outlet to outlet. Some provided detailed and accurate information, but for a minority there was definite confusion about the need for extra equipment, and HD’s availability via Freeview.
1.6 The type of information provided did not differ significantly between the three types of store (chain, department, and independent). When assessed by the mystery shoppers, the overall accuracy of all the information provided did differ, with independent stores adjudged to be significantly more accurate than department stores.
1.7 12% of in-store mystery shoppers (and 4% of phone shoppers) were given the impression that an HD Ready TV set would show high definition pictures from analogue terrestrial TV broadcast.
1.8 And 14% of in-store shoppers (and 21% of phone shoppers) were given the impression that an HD Ready TV set would enable them to receive HD pictures via Freeview (DTT).
1.9 Retailers did not always make it clear that it was necessary to buy extra equipment (in addition to the HD Ready set) to receive HD services. Seven per cent of in-store shoppers were incorrectly told that no extra equipment was required and nearly one in five (18%) of in-store shoppers were only told about this requirement when they asked.
1.10 A quarter of in-store shoppers were only told that additional fees were required to get HDTV services when they asked.
1.11 Shoppers generally received slightly better advice in-store than over the telephone. Websites were less likely to offer any additional advice on HD service (just 44% of websites did so). This had the effect that they were less likely to provide any inaccurate information at all.