FCC Slaps DTV Fines on Electronics Companies

Though it seems that every big box electronics retailer from Malibu to Manhattan is wall-papered in consumer advisories about the digital TV switch in 2009, those stores aren't playing by the rules when it comes to educating the masses - the FCC's rules, that is.

The Federal agency imposed fines Thursday on Sears ($1.1 million), Wal-Mart ($992,000), Circuit City ($712,000), Fry's Electronics ($384,000), Target ($296,000), Best Buy ($280,000), and CompUSA ($168,000).

These stores sold TVs to consumers that won't properly receive over-the-air digital signals in 2009, and did so without giving consumers enough information to satisfy the FCC. Wal-Mart and Target, at least, told Reuters that the fines referred to products the companies previously sold, and that all current inventory is in compliance.

But the FCC didn't merely swat at retailers, it took aim at manufacturers as well for their failure to stop importing and shipping TVs without digital tuners by a specific deadline. Syntax-Brillian got hit with a fine, but seven other manufacturers managed to escape the official sanction by agreeing to settle with the FCC. But that doesn't come cheap either. Matsushita (Panasonic), for example, will pay $320,000 and Philips will pay $450,000 to appease the FCC. -Rachel Rosmarin