HD, or high definition, broadcasts are currently available through satellite and cable television networks. For the antenna-based network, several technical decisions are yet to be made. Before decisions on the adoption of new technology are made, the questions of demand and the effects on consumers need to be given due consideration.
In order to implement the required changes for moving to high definition broadcasting in a controlled manner, it is important to ensure that there is a sufficient transitional period and appropriate information provided in the marketing of relevant appliances. Consumers must have the opportunity to use the appliances they have purchased, for their planned purpose, for their entire normal service life. In addition, the functionality of appliances must be ensured in advance. The Consumer Agency has collaborated with industry organisations and highlighted the requirements of consumer protection in implementing the upcoming changes.
Appliances purchased based on incomplete information?
The technical know-how of appliance salespersons is essential to facilitate purchase decisions based on accurate and relevant information. The hardware requirements related to high-definition technology must be known when marketing and selling appliances. This, of course, poses challenges - especially when nobody knows what the exact technical solutions to be implemented will be. Regardless of this, it must be remembered that the overall impression conveyed by marketing may not be misleading and the consumer must be informed of all aspects relevant to the purchase decision. One may not make promises one can't keep.
Buyers can't be allowed to get surprises such as their appliance - contrary to the impression conveyed in marketing - not being suitable for receiving all pay television services or the viewing of HD content in the near future. If necessary, a careful look should also be taken at what legislative provisions, the licence terms of various actors and technical requirements state - or could state - regarding these matters.
Pay TV and free TV broadcasts are not in the same position, as their hardware requirements may differ from one another. Particularly with HD Pay TV services the requirements for content protection by copyright holders are in a significant role as illegal distribution is prevented through smart card links, which in turn place certain technical requirements on hardware. Nevertheless, there should be discussions on at least how to implement the required protection in a manner that is convenient to consumers. The method of implementation should not be taken for granted, particularly if it threatens to pose unreasonable difficulties for normal use.
Card linking of HD Pay TV to be implemented on the cable television network
Cable television operators are implementing the linking of Pay TV cards and digital receiver devices in their HD broadcasts beginning this spring. On the satellite television side, card linking has already been used for some time and various technical changes affecting hardware requirements have given rise to complaints by consumers. Consumers have also been displeased with the fact that use of a Pay TV card is restricted to one device. The card can't be used at the summer cabin, or even in the next room.
On the cable television side, appliance markets will remain open, i.e. products can be purchased from home appliance retailers, not only from one's own cable operator. Again, consumers must be aware of new hardware requirements. In addition, the serial number of the appropriate appliance must be provided to the cable operator.
On the satellite networks the hardware markets have been fairly restricted, i.e. appliances have been purchased bundled with fixed-term service contracts from the Pay TV operator. This will hopefully change as well.
One card system?
In 2008, a one-card system was adopted for standard definition Pay TV services on the antenna network. The goal was to protect the ease of use of Pay TV channels. While the change was hardly radical from the consumer's viewpoint, this was a positive development. Few consumers use the services of the two available service providers simultaneously. Their packages have, however, overlapped as they have included some of the same channels. Some consumers may, however, want to change service providers between the two available options in a flexible manner. In these situations it is sufficient for the consumer to keep using the same card. When changing service providers, there is no need to return the card. However, this does not translate to any savings in standard service fees.
On the cable network the one card system is not significant, as there is only one service provider on one network. The one card system has not been extended to the satellite network.
HD television does not alone guarantee a better quality of television picture (Press release 13 June 2008)
Which comes first, the user or technology? (Current Issues in Consumer Law 5/2007)