FTC: New York company allegedly “told lies” while selling 800K+ TV antennas

New York company claimed amplifiers & TV antennas could get HBO and AMC The Federal Trade …

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New York company claimed amplifiers & TV antennas could get HBO and AMC

The Federal Trade Commission has settled a lawsuit against a New York-based company for allegedly lying about the performance of its indoor TV antennas.

Wellco Inc. sold hundreds of thousands indoor TV antennas while advertising that its amplifiers could be used with its antennas to get premium or subscription channels such as HBO and AMC for free, according to the FTC. 

Other ads about the TV antennas claimed customers could “cancel their cable and still get all of their favorite channels for free,” according to the FTC’s lawsuit.

“The defendants used every trick in the book to sell their antennas and amplifiers to people, including older adults, who wanted to save money on cable and satellite TV channels,” Daniel Kaufman, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement. “People should be able to trust the claims companies make, not discover after buying that they were told lies.”

Wellco Inc., formerly Wellco Media, Inc. sold indoor TV antennas under different brand names, including TV Scout, SkyWire, SkyLink, and Tilt TV, the FTC said in a press release. 

The company sold more than 800,000 antennas and more than 272,000 amplifiers, according to the FTC. Wellco began selling the TV antennas in 2017 and engaged in what FTC lawyers described as deceptive advertising for more than two years. 

An advertisement for SkyLink TV antennas. The Federal Trade Commission settled a lawsuit against its parent company, Wellco, Inc. in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

As part of the settlement, the FTC agreed to a $31.82 million judgment against Wellco Inc. for deceptive claims about its antennas and amplifiers, according to court records. 

The judgment will be suspended upon a payment of $650,000 to the Commission, based on Wellco’s inability to pay the full judgment, the FTC said in a press release.

“The television antennas sold under each brand name have all, with one exception in early 2017, been one identical model,” FTC lawyers wrote in a court complaint. “The television antenna amplifiers sold under each brand name have all been one identical model.”

Customer testimonials were taken from competitors to make it appear that people were endorsing Wellco’s line of TV antennas, the FTC said.

The company operated websites to advertise, market and sell their antennas and amplifiers, the FTC complaint said. 

One Wellco-owned website claimed that the antennas were taking advantage of a “new 2018 rule cable companies don’t want you to know about,” according to the complaint. 

The site went on to claim that, “up until 2018, cable companies were allowed to ‘scramble’ their channels so that the general public could not access them without paying for their service. However, that all changed in 2018 with the government ruling that TV signals are public property and ‘belong to the people’. Ever since the rule went into effect, the big cable companies are panicking because many Americans will no longer need to pay for cable or satellite TV to get their favorite channels in HD.”

“However, not all TV antennas will work,” the advertisement claimed, according to the FTC lawsuit. “In an attempt to block the public from picking up their TV signals, the cable companies are broadcasting their signals at very low frequencies since most antennas will not be able to pick them up. The trick is to get an antenna that can reliably pick up these low frequency signals, and up until now, there hasn’t been an antenna advanced enough to pick up these signals reliably. (There are other antennas out on the market, but they fail miserably in comparison to this one).”

The FTC filed a lawsuit in federal court on March 10, seeking a permanent injunction against Wellco Inc.

The company will be prohibited “from making claims about any product’s rating, ranking or superiority to other products” unless the claims are true and substantiated, the FTC said. 

The Commission approved the proposed settlement in a 4-0 vote. The FTC filed the complaint seeking an injunction, and a proposed order settling the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

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Jim Kimble is a seasoned industry expert with over two decades of journalism experience. He has been at the forefront of the cord-cutting movement since 2016, testing and writing about TV-related products and services. He founded The Cord Cutting Report in 2016, and serves as the editor.

Major publications, including MarketWatch, Forbes, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, have interviewed Kimble for his years of expertise. He gives advice on the complexities consumers are navigating with streaming options, and over-the-air TV. Kimble has been a staff writer or correspondent for several award-winning, daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe.

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