Wal-Mart stores and Sears Holding Corp. are among the retailers in hot water with the federal regulators, after they failed to warn consumers from buying some sets may not work after next year's transition to digital broadcasts.
The Federal Communications Commission issued $6.6 million in proposed fines against retailers and consumer-electronics manufacturers Thursday, since companies continued to make television sets without the required digital tuners.
The FCC said Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Sears Holdings Corp, Target Corp and eight other companies violated rules designed to prevent consumers from unknowingly buying TVs that cannot receive digital signals when broadcasters make the switch on February 17, 2009.
It is my hope that through our vigorous enforcement actions, retailers will take concrete actions to avoid consumer confusion,'' Chairman Kevin Martin said on April 8 after the FCC inspected 2,716 stores and 36 Web sites in its search for violations.
The commission requires retailers to place label on or near television sets to warn consumers they are unable to get over-the-air digital signals without an additional converter box.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, was issued a $992,000 fine but said the fines were for past violations and all its current products comply with FCC regulations.
... we have already voluntarily invested millions of dollars in new technology, training, new product and consumer education for the FCC's DTV transition program, Wal-Mart said in a statement.
Sears Holding Corp., parent company of K-Mart and Sears, received a $1.1 million fine. Circuit City stores were issued with $712,000; Target received $296,000, while Best Buy Co. faces a $280,000 fine.
The proposed fines are just the first step in the FCC's enforcement process. The companies can appeal to have them reduced or to have them canceled.
The FCC today also proposed fines of $1.6 million against manufacturers for violating a rule which banned the sale of new TVs made since March 1, 2007, that only have analog tuners.