The FCC’s recent DTV enforcement actions made one thing clear – the Commission is being vigilant in the enforcement of its digital television (or “DTV”) regulations. On April 9, 2008, the FCC adopted notices of apparent liability (“NALs”) against eleven companies for mislabeling analog-only television sets with no digital tuners, leaving full V-chip functionality out of DTV sets, and shipping analog-only sets with no digital tuners. The proposed fines total $6.6 million. The FCC also issued consent decrees against seven companies that collectively agreed to pay $3,445,000 for V-chip violations.
Of the eleven NALs, seven were issued against large retail chains for allegedly failing to warn customers that analog-only television sets will not work after the switch to digital broadcasting in 2009. They include Sears and Kmart ($1.1 million in proposed fines); Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club ($992,000); Circuit City ($712,000); Fry’s Electronics ($384,000); Target ($296,000); Best Buy ($280,000); and CompUSA ($168,000). In total, the seven retailers were assessed a total of $3,928,000 in NALs, with Sears and Kmart being the hardest hit (a total of 137 alleged violations). According to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee on April 8, the FCC inspected 2,716 stores as well as 36 web sites searching for violations.
The FCC also adopted two NALs – proposing a total of $1.6 million in fines – against companies alleged to have violated the DTV tuner mandate. One NAL proposed fines of $357,900 against Precor Inc. for allegedly shipping workout equipment containing TVs without digital tuners, while the other proposed fines of $1,266,100 against Syntax Brillian for shipping televisions in interstate commerce that also lacked digital tuners tuners.
Finally, Polaroid and Proview Technology face fines of $775,000 and $300,000, respectively, for violations of the FCC’s requirement that digital televisions recognize digital V-chip technology. The FCC signed consent decrees with seven other manufacturers accused of V-chip violations. The largest settlement was with LG Electronics, which agreed to pay $1,700,000. Settlements were also reached with Philips ($450,000), Sanyo ($375,000), Vizio ($370,000), Panasonic ($320,000), Westinghouse ($210,000), and Audiovox ($20,000).