04.21.2008 12:28 PM
FCC issues more than $6.6 million in fines to retailers and manufacturers over DTV violations

The FCC has fined several electronics retailers — including Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Circuit City and Sears — for failing to properly label analog TV receivers being sold to consumers.

There was no “consumer alert” warning on those sets notifying consumers that they will require digital converters for digital TV when broadcasters turn off their analog signals in February. The labels apply not only to TV sets, but DVD, videocassette and digital video recorders with analog tuners.

In total, the FCC issued $3.9 million to big retailers, while also fining other companies $2.7 million for violating rules including shipping analog equipment and blocking technologies such as V-chip.

Sears Holding, which operates Sears and Kmart retail stores, was fined nearly $1.1 million, Wal-Mart was fined $992,000, and Circuit City was fined $712,000 for failing to label products properly. Target, Best Buy, CompUSA and Fry’s Electronics were all fined as well.

The commission also fined two TV set manufacturers, Syntax-Brillian and Precor, a combined $1.6 million for violating another digital TV rule for manufacturing, importing or shipping any device that only contains an analog tuner. The agency mandated that all new TVs must include digital tuners as of March 1, 2007.

Polaroid and Proview Technology were fined nearly $1.1 million combined for failing to ensure their equipment with a V-chip technology can “respond to changes in the content advisory rating system.”

Next February, TV broadcasters will vacate wireless spectrum used to broadcast analog TV signals. TVs with analog-only tuners will have to be converted to tune digital signals. Last May, the FCC adopted a rule requiring retailers to put some kind of label or alert on analog-only products that warns potential buyers that the set will not pick up analog broadcasts.

The FCC inspected stores last summer and issued warnings. Each store, the commission said, was given “a reasonable opportunity” to respond.

Sears, which was fined for 15 of its stores, its web site and 20 Kmart stores, said in it was “surprised” by the FCC’s action and had eliminated analog inventory from its stores last fall and will soon offer converter boxes.

Best Buy, fined for 18 stores selling various models of analog-only equipment, said it was “extremely disappointed” by the FCC’s action to what it called a “relatively small number of instances.”

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