Kogan takes on the Australian Government

Online retailer attacks the 2011 Federal Budget, claims $308.8m for digital TV hand-out is too expensive

Not content with baiting Australia’s television manufacturers, JB Hi-Fi and Gerry Harvey, controversial cut-price online retailer Kogan has claimed the Federal Government’s $308.8million Household Assistance Scheme to provide digital TV set-top boxes to pensioners around Australia is too expensive and that it could provide a better deal.

Read our explanation of the Government's Household Assistance Scheme, and look at the 'talking' set-top box that the Government has been developing for blind citizens.

A post on Kogan’s blog says that “as technology experts,” Kogan “know[s] the Government is proposing to spend far too much by allocating $350+ to each installation of a set-top box.”

Kogan says that its $49 HD digital set-top box “goes far above and beyond what the Government needs to meet the minimum requirements of pensioners.” Kogan claims that “thousands” of what it calls its “mature-age customers” are able to install these devices without assistance, and says that it also has unlimited phone, email and Web support services available. Kogan also suggests that pensioners could instead buy a 16in LCD TV from its online store for $129 plus delivery.

Digital Switchover Taskforce public affairs manager Matt Francis told GoodGearGuide that the set-top boxes already distributed as part of the Household Assistance Scheme were chosen for their accessibility, and were "simpler to use" than many set-top boxes currently available, including "large buttons" for ease of use.

Kogan says that the scheme is wasteful: “Even in the small percentage of cases where a technician may be required to fix an old antenna, the total cost should not be anywhere near the $350+ the Government is proposing to spend.” Kogan’s blog posts suggests that friends and family assisting with setting up set-top boxes would be a suitable alternative to professional installation that would cut costs.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy called for tenders for the Household Assistance Package at the end of April. The tender "encourages proposals from suitable organisations" to provide services as part of the Scheme. A spokesman for the Digital Switchover Taskforce said he "would simply point [Kogan] in this direction."

“Most people don't need official government help to install Set-Top Boxes - they can do it themselves, get unlimited assistance from a company like Kogan, or get help from tech-savvy family and friends.” Kogan suggests that its method could cut the cost of the Household Assistance Scheme to $50million, and says that “if the Government is serious about this program", it "honestly believe[s]” that it could offer a superior service.

The Government’s digital TV switchover Household Assistance Scheme aims to provide eligible pensioners with a free set-top box, installation including tuning and the cabling and professional connection of a free external antenna if necessary, education and ongoing support services. According to the Government’s Budget papers released last night, the Budget allocation includes in-home assistance and an information campaign with digital TV manufacturers and retailers to drive digital TV adoption.

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