Despite warnings of consumer exploitation and possible invasion of
privacy, Australia's first home shopping television channel was launched
yesterday in a flurry of garlic crushers and special offers.
At noon, The Value Channel (TVC) began transmission to viewers across the
country via the Galaxy and Optus Vision pay television networks and the Ten
Network's regional affiliates.
TVC is on air 24 hours a day, seven days a week, flogging everything from
jewellery and ovens to lasagna dishes and CDs in segments ranging in duration
from a few minutes up to an hour.
And success, according to TVC management, will be in the service's
convenience and product range. "TVC represents an obvious step forward for
Australian consumers. It adds a new option to a range of choice about how, when
and what consumers can buy," said the TVC chairman, Mr Michael Milne.
But shoppers should be wary, according to the Australian Consumers'
Association (ACA), which claims home shopping channels "aren't the best way to
Ms Gail Kennedy, as spokeswoman for the association, said because it was a
new medium for Australians, consumers were particularly vulnerable to being
"TV home shopping might be an enjoyable pastime for some but it's not the
best way to shop, as it's reactive, impossible to seek out specific items, and
you must watch and simply respond to offers," Ms Kennedy said.
However, a TVC spokesman defended the channel, saying the ACA's claims were
"I think home shopping has an image problem in that Australians don't know
what to expect. People are at liberty to shop around and compare prices, in fact
we encourage it. We also offer a money-back guarantee on products sold," he
Ms Kennedy warned that home shopping was no substitute for shopping around,
and exploited customers' weakness for impulse buying.
"Prices are often higher than in real shops and a range of techniques are
used to urge quick purchases," she said. "Home shopping presents products and
makes sales pitches on the TV screen creating a sense of urgency by implying
that a special offer is running out."
Mrs Kennedy claimed TVC had boasted to its vendors it could provide them with
information about who and where their customers are along with what they had
But the TVC spokesman said: "The customer database represents the company's
intellectual property. Why would they want to sell that? We do tell vendors we
can inform them on what geographic areas their callers are coming from."
It is understood TVC received about 200 calls an hour yesterday, which was
expected to decline significantly during the late evening and early morning