Best Buy and Circuit City challenge FCC fines

Electronics retailers Best Buy and Circuit City have challenged the FCC’s recent DTV fines, contending the commission does not have the authority to fine them. Even if they did, the retailers said, the commission did not follow proper procedure in doing so.

The argument is based on recent FCC fines of retailers for allegedly failing to properly label analog-only television receivers. Best Buy was fined $280,000, while Circuit City was fined $712,000. The labeling was required to help consumers determine which sets will receive signals after next February’s analog television shutdown.

Best Buy argued it is not an FCC licensee and the commission has no authority to issue the company fines. Even then, said the company, the commission didn’t provide a period of comment on the labeling requirement, which is a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. That makes it “invalid and unenforceable” even if the FCC did have the authority for the fine.

On top of that, Best Buy said FCC technicians had issued citations for sets that actually did have DTV tuners or had no tuners at all. “Neither Best Buy nor the commission inspectors had accurate and complete information concerning the products to be labeled before [or after] the regulation took effect,” Best Buy said.

Circuit City made similar arguments. “The commission has no direct jurisdiction over products aside from the operation of the tuning function itself, and the Court of Appeals has been clear that jurisdiction over the tuning function is an insufficient basis for ancillary jurisdiction,” Circuit City said.