FCC Fines Stores For Hawking "Useless" TVs

(AP) Federal regulators fined Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc. and other retailers a combined $3.9 million on Thursday for failing to label analog television sets properly as subject to become essentially useless after the United States switches to digital TV next year.

The Federal Communications Commission also handed down $2.7 million in fines to other companies for violating other digital TV rules that involve shipping analog equipment and blocking technologies such as the V-chip.

An FCC rule, adopted last May, requires retailers to add labeling to analog-only TV equipment that says it will not receive signals without a special converter box after the nationwide digital transition.

The rule is to keep consumers from buying TV equipment that will not work after the digital switchover by Feb. 17, 2009. After that, if the TV does not get cable or satellite service or is not hooked up to the converter box that translates over-the-air digital broadcasts, it won't work.

Sears Holding Corp., which operates Sears and Kmart retail stores, was fined nearly $1.1 million for the labeling violation, while Wal-Mart was given a $992,000 fine and Circuit City Stores Inc. was handed a $712,000 fine. Target, Best Buy, CompUSA Inc., which is a division of Systemax Inc., and Fry's Electronics Inc. were assessed fines from $168,000 to $384,000.

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

Additionally, the agency fined Polaroid Corp. and Proview Technology Inc. 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.”

All the companies have 30 days to appeal the fines.

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