With the digital television transition date less than two years away, the FCC is taking aggressive action against television manufacturers that continue to ship analog-only television sets and retailers that continue to sell analog-only television equipment without displaying the required consumer alert disclosure. Without a separate digital-to-analog converter box, analog-only television sets and equipment will be unable to receive over-the-air signals after February 17, 2009, the mandated shut-off date for analog television signals.
Syntax-Brillian Corporation and Regent U.S.A., Inc., received hefty proposed fines from the FCC for shipping analog-only sets. The Commission found Syntax-Brillian, the manufacturer of Olevia-branded sets, apparently liable for $2,899,575 for violating an FCC rule that required scheduled phase-outs of the interstate shipment of television sets that cannot tune digital television signals. Regent U.S.A., the manufacturer of Maxent brand sets, received a proposed fine of $63,650, also for shipping non-compliant televisions.
The Commission calculated the proposed fines by using a tiered, per unit forfeiture scale that penalizes the manufacturers based on the number of non-compliant sets they shipped, and makes shipping more non-compliant sets relatively more costly. Specifically, the FCC fined the manufacturers $50 per unit for the first 1,000 non-compliant sets they shipped, and $75 per unit for the next 1,500 sets. The scale continues to increase as follows:
The proposed fines against Syntax-Brillian and Regent were calculated based on the FCC's finding that Syntax-Brillian shipped 22,069 non-compliant television sets and Regent shipped 1,182 non-compliant sets.
In separate actions, the Commission's enforcement bureau issued citation letters to over a dozen television retailers for failing to display required consumer alerts with the analog-only television equipment the retailers offered on their websites. Although manufacturers are no longer permitted to ship analog-only equipment, retailers can continue to sell analog-only equipment from their existing inventory. As of May 25, 2007, however, retailers must display a disclosure in close proximity to their analog-only equipment, informing consumers that the equipment will not receive over-the-air signals after February 17, 2009.
The following retailers received citation letters, all for their online operations: abesofmaine.com; Amazon.com Inc.; Best Buy, Inc.; Buy.com; Circuit City Stores, Inc.; CompUSA, Inc.; Computer Nerds International, Inc.; Dell, Inc.; Digitalfotoclub.com; Fry's Electronics, Inc.; J & R Electronics, Inc.; Kmart Corporation; Newegg.com; Prestige Camera LLC; RadioShack Corporation; Sears, Roebuck & Co.; Target Corporation; and TigerDirect.com. The consumer alert display requirement applies to in-store, online, direct mail, and catalog sales, but, thus far, the FCC only has issued citations concerning online sales.
The bureau's citation letters did not propose fines. Instead, the letters warned retailers that continued violations of the display requirement could result in proposed forfeitures of up to $11,000 per incident.