TBC Corp.'s plan to offer customers wireless Internet access at selected Tire Kingdom and National Tire and Battery (NTB) locations in Florida and Texas is still just that-a plan-after the supplier ran afoul of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations.
TBC disclosed its plan last October to test market the concept at 65 locations, including Tire Kingdom stores in Tampa/St. Petersburg and Orlando, Fla., and NTB stores in Houston.
At the time, TBC said offering wireless Internet access was part of its objective to give customers the ``most friendly and productive area in which to wait,'' according to Erik Olsen, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for TBC. ``It's a nice way of giving us distinction,'' he said then.
However, before the company could get even the first kiosk working, the FTC clamped a cease-and-desist order on the supplier, Plantation, Fla.-based Transnet Wireless Corp., for allegedly illegal practices related to deceptive income claims, failure to deliver equipment and failure to provide business location assistance.
Specifically the FTC accused Transnet Wireless of violating the FTC Act and the commission's Franchise Rule. The commission is seeking redress for consumers who claim they were defrauded by the company.
``We still think the concept is one worth pursuing,'' said Bob Crostarosa, vice president of marketing for Tire Kingdom, ``but we haven't been able to find a provider that can supply national coverage for our whole store network.''
Mr. Crostrarosa said Transnet Wireless had delivered a handful of kiosks but had not activated them when the FTC stepped in. TBC has not incurred any expenses to date, he added.
Before the FTC's intervention, Transnet Wireless said it was establishing a national network of Wi-Fi Hot Spots through a private local distributorship program. It was this network that was to manage the set-up and maintenance of TBC's network.
TBC said last fall it was considering adding the wireless Internet kiosks at all of its company-owned retail outlets if the trial project panned out.