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Best Buy: FCC has no power to fine us over analog televisions


Best Buy LogoThe nation’s biggest electronics retailer has told the Federal Communications Commission that the agency lacks the authority to punish Best Buy for screwing up its digital transition TV selling rules. “The Commission never before has claimed, asserted, or exercised direct or ancillary jurisdiction over retailers, or retail practices, of the nature that is asserted” by the FCC, Best Buy attorneys say. And the appliance giant charges that the Commission’s recent Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) holds the company to “a standard of flawless compliance.” That’s especially unfair, Best Buy complains, given that the FCC’s NAL also contains mistakes.

In mid-April the Commission proposed almost $4 million in fines to seven major retailers for “willfully and repeatedly” selling analog-only TV sets without labels that warn consumers that the devices may not work after February 17, 2009—the last day of analog broadcasting. The fined stores included the Sears-Roebuck/K-Mart group, dinged to the tune of $1.096 million; Wal-Mart, hit with a $992,000 forfeit; and CompUSA, which took the lowest penalty of $168,000.

Best Buy received a proposed fine of $280,000. FCC Enforcement Bureau agents say that they checked numerous Best Buy stores and found analog only TVs on sale without warning labels. The agency told Best Buy about the sets, then “after affording Best Buy a reasonable opportunity to respond to the first Citation,” FCC staff surveyed the stores again, only to find more unlabeled analog TVs.

Circuit City and Sears are also challenging these fines. In Best Buy’s May 12th, 41 page response, the retailer throws the book at the FCC’s NAL, giving five reasons for its appeal. Here are three…

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