[LINK] TiVo cops price gouge flak
david.boxall at hunterlink.net.au
Tue Mar 24 21:40:20 EST 2009
Apparently, TiVos sold in Australia have networking hardware, but it's
disabled. The Australian distributors are selling a software upgrade
(which won't allow transfer of some content: ie. it's cripple-ware) for
$199 (temporarily discounted to $99 because of protests). Where are the
hackers when we need them?
March 23, 2009 - 12:06PM
TiVo users are demanding refunds after the company began charging $199
for a basic upgrade it promised would cost "tens of dollars", prompting
investigations into whether the move breached fair trading laws.
TiVo was launched in Australia in the middle of last year by Hybrid
Television Services, wholly owned by the Seven Network, but it lacked
key features present on the US model.
The $699 TV recording device lacked the key home networking feature that
allows users to transfer content from their PC to the TiVo, and
recordings from the TiVo to the PC and a range of mobile devices.
The feature, which also allows multiple TiVos in different rooms to talk
to each other, comes free with the US model but was deliberately
disabled on the Australian version. Many bought the hobbled TiVo anyway
based on the promise that the home networking upgrade would cost "tens
It was finally made available this month at a cost of $199, prompting an
outcry among TiVo users.
The NSW Office of Fair Trading said it was "interested in investigating"
claims the move breached fair trading laws but said it would need
affected TiVo users to file a complaint by calling 13 32 20 or visiting
Andrew Waddell, state member for Forrestfield in Western Australia,
wrote to the state's Treasurer, Troy Buswell, saying TiVo's actions
constituted "misleading or deceptive conduct".
"It would be reasonable to say that purchasers of the product have been
greatly misled as to the costs that they are likely to expect to pay to
gain full functionality of the product," Waddell wrote.
"As TiVos have been purchased by thousands of Western Australians, I
would ask that you have the Consumer Protection Division of the
Department of Commerce investigate this matter."
In response to the outcry, TiVo slashed the price of the upgrade pack to
$99 for existing TiVo owners who fill out a short form on the TiVo
website. However, the price of the upgrade will return to $199 from April 1.
"I don't think $100 is the tens of dollars that was quoted originally
and it will disappear after April 1 anyway so it's still going to be
$200 ... these are features that are free with the American version of
the product," said Australian TiVo user Michael Molloy.
Robbee Minicola, CEO of Hybrid Television Services, said it was
"ridiculous" to compare the Australian pricing model to the US pricing
model as the product is sold in Australia for $699 whereas the US
version is sold on a subscription basis.
Minicola said that, while the stand-alone price of the home networking
package will be unchanged at $199 after April 1, people may still be
able to get it for $99 if they buy it with a new TiVo or with other
accessories such as a larger hard drive.
She said the company was forced to charge such a high price for the
upgrade because of several factors including the plummeting value of the
Australian dollar against the US dollar, royalties paid to TiVo in the
US and the "hundreds of thousands of dollars" spent converting the TiVo
for the Australian market.
"At the end of the day, if our business doesn't work, nobody gets a
TiVo," Minicola said.
Comment is being sought from the NSW Office of Fair Trading.
David Boxall | Any given program,
| when running correctly,
| is obsolete.
| --Arthur C. Clarke
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