Big Box Retailers Fight Back Against FCC's Recent Fines

Best Buy, Circuit City, and Sears are all contesting the FCC’s recent fines against them for not properly following analog transition rules in their stores, reports Ars Technica. Last week, Best Buy submitted a 41-page response (PDF) that claimed among other things that the FCC has no authority to fine them.

Best Buy’s boldest claim is that the FCC “has not claimed any express authorization from Congress to enact the Labeling Rule, and none exist.” In other words, they claim the FCC doesn’t have the authority to force retailers to label all analog TVs with warnings that they will need a digital converter after to receive over-the-air broadcasts after February 17th, 2009.

Additionally, the company claims that its violations were accidents and not “willful” as described by the FCC, and that the FCC’s report contained errors, such as listing a model that doesn’t exist.

“Best Buy: FCC has no power to fine us over analog TVs” [Ars Technica] (Thanks to forgottenpassword!)

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“Sears, Best Buy, Wal-Mart And Others Fined For Not Warning Consumers About Analog Obsolescence”
Best Buy’s Response [Ars Technica]
(Photo: Getty Images)

Comments

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  1. On one hand, I hate BB. On the other hand, I hate the FCC even more.

    Pardon the following rant: Never in my lifetime have I seen so much hand-wringing over a relatively small change. EVERY afternoon during syndicated shows I have to see the scrolling message that 2/09 is DOOMSDAY and you’d better log on to some website to tell you what to do. Not to mention, all the private-sector ads between shows.

    Let’s assume for a second that the mass media NEVER said anything about DTV. So one day Cletus wakes up and flips on the tube. Nothing. So he calls the local station and they explain the situation. Minor inconvenience for a few hours, at worst.

    Sounds like all of this is just so the networks can keep customers from getting temporarily upset and being slightly inconvenienced. Why this requires 3+ years of advanced warning, I’ll never understand.

  2. cortana says:

    You seem to forget that half the Emergency Broadcast System is built on the TV spectrum. That’s sort of important to have in a lot of areas. Also, Americans don’t believe in calling a station to ask. They’ll just cry to everyone they can and sue some people. I should know. I am one of them.

  3. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    There shouldn’t be any analog TV sets left by now.
    Making or importing them has been banned for over a year.
    The sets now in the stores are probably imported with the container saying it’s for Mexico, which changes in 2020 or Canada which changes to digital in 2011.
    This is total fraud on the part of the retailers & unbelievable incompetence on the part of both the FCC & Congress!

  4. darkryd says:

    Its like watching two people you dont like go at it in a schoolyard brawl!

    Fight! Fight! Fight!

  5. @cortana: What about radio, or simply “the sirens are going off outside”? Not saying TVs aren’t important, but there are plenty of other alert measures available to the general population.

    Is there a good source to find out how many people are OTA-only households? I don’t personally know any, and driving through the country, all I see are dishes.

  6. azntg says:

    @Ash78: Not every place in the United States have a locale-wide siren system in place, much less a PA system.

  7. Lucky225 says:

    I must say as much as I hate these retailers, screw the FCC this is clearly a revenue collection scheme, if you don’t know by now that your analog set won’t work w/ rabbit ears in feb of 2009, you must be living in a cave with osama.

  8. Best Buy is exactly right. The FCC overstepped its charter in trying to enforce labeling regulations against these retailers.

    That said, the FCC should have just worked with the Federal Trade Commission to enforce these rules (I do agree that the labeling is necessary). But Best Buy’s arguments that the violations were not willful or repeated are legit also, so I don’t blame them for fighting back.

  9. forgottenpassword says:

    YAY!!!!! FINALLY! Recognition!!!!! My life has meaning for a few moments!

  10. puffyshirt says:

    @Ash78: I agree. The need for a digital converter is not equal to all this media effort. The only reasoning I can slightly understand is that someone living on a fixed income could use the warning window to save up enough money in order to afford the converter.

  11. TheAlphateam says:

    I REALLY hate to say this, but the FCC should have no power over retailers. BB should win in the case.

  12. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    It’s called ficiduary responsablity to the shareholders. They *have* to be weasels, it’s their job.

  13. magic8ball says:

    @Ash78: I am OTA only. No cable, no dish. I live in an urban area where those options are available; I just don’t watch TV often enough to make it worth the money.

  14. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    So the FTC should just impose the fines.

  15. WhirlyBird says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: “There shouldn’t be any analog TV sets left by now. “

    You are kidding, right? My grandmother is still watching the same set she’s had for 15 years, and since she lives on a $265 a month Social Security check, I’m betting she won’t be replacing it anytime soon. I’m sure that more than a few low- or fixed-income families are in exactly the same position. Not everyone is addicted to consumerism, y’know.

  16. wdnobile says:

    @cortana:

    The Emergency Broadcast System? What a JOKE. I live in New England – we’ve seen 5 foot blizzards, hurricanes, a slight earthquake or two, 9/11, and seen the country go to war twice in my lifetime. Total number of times the EBS has been used? ZERO. If war and natural disaster, not to mention our country being attacked on our own soil isnt enough for them to use that foolish thing – what the hell is? The EBS is a useless relic of nuclear war paranoia – it belongs to the trash heap along with bomb shelters from teh 1950s

  17. ChuckECheese says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: I’m with you, Guzik. I saw this going on through the holidays last year (2007). The retailers knew that they were selling contraband TVs. They were deliberately unlabeled, even on the retail boxes themselves. I’m going shopping today, and I’m going to take a look-see for analog TVs. I’ll report back.

  18. lim says:

    @Ash78: “the sirens are going off outside” – What? Oh the high school must have won some sort of state championship. What season is it anyway? Hockey?

    @wdnobile: “Total number of times the EBS has been used? ZERO.” – But my oh my it seems like they just love to TEST the damn thing.

  19. CharlieInSeattle says:

    I’m not sure how the FCC has jurisdiction over this. Now the FTC probably would.

  20. eelmonger says:

    @wdnobile: I live in Florida and they use the EBS here all the time. Mostly for severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and brushfires.

  21. GearheadGeek says:

    @wdnobile: It would seem that the problem is in the implementation or invocation of the EBS in your area. Here in the southern part of Tornado Alley, EBS broadcasts are fairly common and a much more useful sort of “take cover” message than EBS could ever have provided in the event of a nuclear attack. You can often hide from a tornado, they don’t come with hard ionizing radiation, sand-melting heat or shock waves.

  22. donkeyjote says:

    @WhirlyBird: He meant for sale, brand new.

  23. ChuckECheese says:

    @eelmonger: In Florida, EBS should also come with sirens for sinkholes, mullets, and ‘alligator’s got my baby.’

  24. cef21 says:

    @Ash78: You can go back and check the transcripts of the hearings from the Senate communications committee when they passed this. If I recall correctly, the number of televisions that still do over-the-air reception is around 28%. If you think about it, you know that there still have to be a fair number of people; otherwise why would the TV stations keep maintaining the huge transmitters?

    That 28% is why the Congress decided to give vouchers for converter boxes — they were worried about the reaction when millions of senior citizens discover that they can’t get the Lawrence Welk show anymore.

  25. linbey says:

    @Jaysyn:

    What are they supposed to do with unsold Analog sets, just throw them away and lose millions of dollars? Donate them to kids in Africa? There is nothing wrong with selling them. People can still use them to play DVDs and video games, and chances are that they will be very inexpensive

  26. joellevand says:

    @linbey: Thank you for posting exactly what I was about to type.

    The Big Box retailers haven’t mysteriously been getting analog TVs from illegal sources. They’ve just had them for a long time because the damned things don’t sell, except to the elderly who are afraid of newfangledness. It would be a massive waste of money (not to mention resources) to trash them, and you cannot donate them to other countries, even if you wanted to, due to frame rates voltage differences, etc. etc. etc.

  27. MPHinPgh says:

    @darkryd: Its like watching two people you dont like go at it in a schoolyard brawl!

    That may be the best analogy ever…

  28. CelesteRat says:

    @WhirlyBird:
    What I meant was that there shouldn’t be any analog TV sets left in the
    retail stores.
    All should have been sold off by now.
    The ones currently in the stores are being illegally imported into the
    US.
    This is a massive fraud going on by certain retailers.

  29. ageshin says:

    I have a small rant of my own. The whole change over from analog TV to HD is a huge money making swindle on the citizens of this fair country. It forces everyone to at some point go out and buy a HD TV at outrageous prices. The benefits in picture quality are not worth it, and the games that the cable and sat companies are playing to cram more into what bandwidth they have, makes the quality even less. I did not vote for this new system, and I think that the fights between the FCC and big box stores is a joke.

  30. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    @WhirlyBird:
    What I meant was that there shouldn’t be any analog sets left to sell at any retailer in this country.
    It’s been illegal to make or import them since March 2007, but they still are being sold here.
    Why>
    They all should have been sold.
    As I wrote originally, the analog sets in stores now have been made in China Korea or Thailand & falsely labeled for sale in Canada or Mexico on the manifest for customs inspection.
    But the Customs officers obviously haven’t been trained to search for illegal analog sets, so they just pass them through.