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FCC Monitoring RF Equipment Sellers’ Websites; Recently Found Company in Violation and Threatens Severe Sanctions

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has again made it clear that it will not tolerate companies that manufacture, market, or distribute radiofrequency (“RF”) equipment that is not compliant with its rules.  The FCC recently released a Citation and Order against an RF equipment dealer that advertised non-compliant audio/visual transmitters for sale on its website.  While monitoring the company’s website, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau discovered that the advertised equipment exceeded the FCC’s power limits and was unlawfully designed to operate on restricted frequencies.  The FCC opened an investigation and publicly informed the company that its actions could well result in fines of up to $144,344 for any single continuing rule violation.

This case is a warning to all RF equipment suppliers that they must remain strictly compliant with FCC rules when marketing their devices.  The FCC’s rules define “marketing” very broadly to include advertising.

FCC RF Equipment Compliance Requirements

Section 302(b) of the Communications Act and Section 2.803 of the FCC’s rules plainly state that (with limited exceptions) any and all RF devices must be properly tested, authorized, and labeled before being marketed in the U.S.  Among other things, this means that RF devices advertised on websites must show demonstrate compliance by displaying evidence that the devices comply with all applicable FCC rules.  Often, this information is the same as that which is required to be on an RF device’s label.  It is also important to be sure that any product specifications displayed on a website comply with the FCC’s technical rules.

The FCC Regularly Scans Websites, Looking for Violations

The FCC routinely monitors the websites of RF equipment manufacturers and distributors, checking for compliance.  If the FCC suspects a violation, it will open an investigation by serving a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”), requiring the supplier to quickly supply exculpatory information.  If the FCC is not satisfied with the reply, it will publicly issue sanctions against the supplier.

TCB Post-Market Surveillance

The FCC’s website monitoring is not the only way RF equipment suppliers can be caught in a rule violation.  The FCC requires Telecommunications Certification Bodies (“TCBs” – entities that test RF devices for FCC certification) to conduct post-market surveillance on at least five percent of the devices they certify.  If the TCB finds a violation, it is required to report it to the FCC.

Adopt Marketing Best Practices to Mitigate Chances of Being Investigated 

With the FCC apparently stepping up its RF equipment enforcement, it is now more important than ever before that suppliers employ experienced professionals who understand the FCC rules, and help ensure compliance with same.  Practical RF device suppliers not only understand the rules, they implement best practice procedures in order to mitigate the risk of FCC rule violations.

Marashlian & Donahue, PLLC has decades of experience in FCC equipment marketing and enforcement matters.  We specialize in helping client to achieve and maintain compliance with FCC rules.  We have also successfully represented clients before the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.  If you would like additional information, please contact IoT attorney Ronald E. Quirk, Jr. at (703) 714-1305 or req@commlawgroup.com.  

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