A lot of people may not realize it, but monitoring advertising is one of the main functions of the Better Business Bureau. In fact, it was advertisers who formed the BBB 100 years ago.
For some time, the BBB has been monitoring ads from Arthur Middleton Capital Holdings, a company in Canton, Ohio, that markets products ranging from sheets of uncut $2 bills to Amish heaters.
Recently, an ad for Clear-Cast TV antennas piqued our curiosity.
The ads, which ran in local newspapers, claimed that television antennas being sold through the ads could bring in such good programming that consumers could get rid of their cable or satellite television service. The ads don't actually claim to replace cable, but the BBB felt they could be read that way or that consumers could interpret it that way.
Earlier this month, the BBB in Canton, Ohio, issued a warning on the ads by Clear-Cast, and the St. Louis BBB wanted to inform consumers in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois as well. Here is our release:
St. Louis, Mo., June 1, 2012 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers about a series of ads for an “amazing” TV antenna that allows viewers to “get rid of cable and satellite bills.” The company running the ads is part of Ohio-based Arthur Middleton Capital Holdings, whose newspaper and magazine advertorials have come under increasing BBB criticism.
The BBB warns that the full-page Clear-Cast antenna ads – which have run locally in recent weeks in the Parade magazine insert of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and in the main section of the Belleville News-Democrat – have the capacity to mislead the public. Earlier this month, the BBB in Canton, Ohio, issued a news alert on the advertising, saying concerns were serious enough to warrant an “F” grade by the BBB, the lowest grade possible.
“After testing the product, the BBB found it did not perform as it is claimed in the
ad,” the Canton, Ohio, BBB concluded. “Additionally, BBB inquiries indicate that because the headline claims that consumers can eliminate cable or satellite bills, consumers are under the impression they will receive the same type of channeling as with their current provider, which the BBB found is not the case. Consumers continue to contact the BBB and state they are also confused as to what they are actually getting.”
Clear-Cast antennas are manufactured by Brilliant Built Technologies, a subsidiary of Universal Media Syndicate, Inc., of Canton. Universal Media Syndicate is a part of Arthur Middleton Capital Holdings, a company that has marketed products ranging from portable electric heaters to dietary aids to uncut sheets of U.S. $1 and $2 bills.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the Clear-Cast ads are only the latest of Arthur Middleton marketing campaigns that have raised BBB concerns.
“Despite several meetings between the BBB and Arthur Middleton officials, this company apparently feels that it is necessary to stretch the limits of ethical advertising in order to sell its products,” Corey said. “The public has a right to know that the products sold in these ads are often not what they seem.”
In December 2010, the BBB raised questions about claims in full-page
advertisements for “absolutely free” sheets of uncut $2 bills marketed by World Reserve Monetary Exchange, another Arthur Middleton company. Nearly a year later, the BBB issued an alert noting “significant and ongoing concerns” over advertisements run in the St. Louis area and elsewhere by Arthur Middleton businesses.
The most recent Clear-Cast ad shows a photo of workers boxing antennas for shipment. “Consumers dump cable and satellite for invention that pulls in free
TV with no bills,” says the ad. The ad says that the invention is a “razor-thin indoor digital HDTV antenna that delivers picture-perfect reception without a cable or Internet connection, without a satellite dish and without any monthly
bills. Just plug it in to your TV and pull in up to 953 free TV shows with crystal clear digital picture and no monthly bills ever.”
The antennas cost $47 each, plus postage.
The BBB says its research found that 90 percent of callers surveyed believed the
company was offering 953 channels, not 953 shows as was stated in the ad. BBB concerns included the use of the word “free” in its ads, the company’s claims of advanced technology and claims comparing its antennas to cable or satellite TV. Even though the ads include a statement that the antennas will not receive cable or satellite, the BBB feels these types of ads are inherently misleading.
When considering using TV antennas versus cable or satellite TV, the BBB recommends the following:
- Location is important. If you live in a valley or rural area, you will have fewer channels available to you than if you live near a TV station transmitter.
- You will not receive the same channels and programming as your cable or satellite TV packages.
- Different types of antennas provide different results. You can view options through the FCC’s website at http://www.fcc.gov/guides/antennas-and-digital-television.
- Ask about the firm’s return and exchange policies before making a purchase.
- Don’t fall victim to ads asking for an immediate response. Make sure you do your homework before buying any product.
- Check BBB Business Reviews at 314-645-3300 or at www.bbb.org.
About the BBB
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.