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Understand the purchase terms for a TV converter box

In February 2009, television reception will undergo a significant change throughout the United States. The analog system of broadcasting and television reception will be replaced with a new digital signal.

Consumers that have televisions equipped with antennas to receive programming will need to purchase a digital converter box for the sets.

Government coupons designed to help defray the cost of purchasing a converter box are available to all consumers. The Federal Trade Commission however, suggests consumers understand the terms and conditions tied to the purchase of a converter box.

_ A consumer can apply one coupon toward the purchase of each converter box. In other words, if need to purchase two converter boxes for separate televisions, two coupons are required.

_ Know that government converter box coupons are good for only 90 days after being mailed to a consumer. The coupons are available on a "use it or lose it" basis. If a coupon is not used, a replacement coupon will not be sent to the recipient.

_ Never pay for a coupon for a digital converter box. The coupons are free from the federal government.

_ Don't give your Social Security number or other sensitive financial information when you order or redeem a your coupon.

_ Ask the retailer about the box's features, manufacturer's warranty and the store's return policy before purchasing a converter box. If you return a converter box purchased with a coupon, you can't get the value of the coupon back.

_ Make sure installation instructions are included with the converter box before leaving the store. If you have questions, ask the retailer to explain the installation or check to see whether the manufacturer offers a toll-free help line. You can find general installation instructions at www.dtv.gov/publications.html.

_ Installing a converter box should go easy and smoothly. If a consumer decides to hire someone to install the box however, the price of the installation service should be put down in writing

_ Ignore any offer for a "free" converter box, especially if it requires you to pay for shipping or a warranty. The government does not certify the companies that make these offers, and their converter boxes are not eligible under the coupon program.

_ Don't attempt to sell the coupons. It's illegal. But you can pass a coupon to a family member or friend.

SOURCE: Federal Trade Commission

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Edited and compiled by Chuck Myers.

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(c) 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.