Friday, February 28, 2014

Retailers Should Stop Selling FM Radios

FM radios on offer in Moroni in Comores. They do however not have DAB signals in the air.

Norway will switch off FM as the first country in the world in January 2017. Digital Radio Norway is a non-profit organization that provides information about the shift in technology. It also deals with marketing of digital radio and consumer law considerations.

Yesterday they sent out a press release encouraging retailers of FM radios to inform potential customers that
FM radio sets in Norway will go quiet in a few years' time:

All major radio channels will stop transmitting, and Norwegian retailers are now being encouraged to inform customers that FM radios will soon be "useless".
Norway is in a transition period where radio distribution is being changed from FM to DAB, from analogue to digital. The exact switch-off date is yet to be set, but car and radio dealers are now encouraged to proactively inform customers about the possible consequences of purchasing an FM radio. 
- FM switch-off is less than five years away, and retailers need to be aware of the facts to properly inform customers. Products such as radio sets come with a five years guarantee, and potential buyers deserve to be given an accurate update about known changes in available programmes and channels, says Jarle Ruud, Marketing Manager at Digital Radio Norway. 

This is an important message, but the signal is in my opinion neither strong nor clear enough. Why not? FM will be switched off in 2017. The switch-off can in theory be delayed, but under no circumstance longer than to January 2019. This is however not likely as the five governmental requirements for the switch-off will be met by the end of 2014. The requirements will be evaluated in early 2015.

The easiest way to prevent unhappy customers is of course to stop selling FM radios altogether.

Retailers should be asked not to sell FM radios at all, unless customers specifically ask for a non-DAB radio. To keep FM radios in stock on shelves is fooling the customers as they will be "useless" before the end of the five year guarantee. 

800,000 radios are sold every year in Norway. Last year 59% of those were DAB radios. Do keep in mind that every DAB radio in the market supports FM, so anyone buying a radio for usage abroad or to pick up ultra local stations may still take advantage of the FM functionality.

The Consumer Ombudsman argues that to market FM radios without information about the consequences of FM switch-off, could from now on be considered misleading. And it is. But why market and sell them at all?

In 2013 328,000 FM radios were sold. The people who purchased them will be disappointed to find that they will no longer be usable in Norway (with the exception of some ultra local radio stations) from January 11, 2017.

And it isn't only about functionality. It is also about getting access to those new channels that cannot be received by an FM radio. It is about introducing people that do not know what DAB is to its technical advantages and its increased number of content.

Most retailers of radios are in my opinion fooling their customers by selling FM radios or cars with FM radios. Such behaviour never calls for a lasting relationship.