The proliferation of wireless and other electronic devices brings not only great opportunities but also compliance risk. This is demonstrated by a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) consent decree with Rexing, Inc., a retailer of aftermarket vehicle dash cameras.
Most devices that radiate radiofrequency, or RF, energy, either intentionally or unintentionally, must be tested for compliance prior to marketing in the United States. Some also must receive grants of equipment authorization from the FCC. Many are subject to labeling requirements. These requirements apply not just to manufacturers, but also to parties that import and market electronic and wireless devices in the U.S.
Examples of products that are subject to these FCC requirements, and which can unintentionally create regulatory problems for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, include lightbulbs, ultrasonic humidifiers, and anything with a chip in it, such as computers, video games, and similar consumer products.
Rexing’s equipment allows consumers to add front and/or rear camera functionality to their vehicles. A complaint was filed with the FCC about these products because they appeared to cause interference with vehicle satellite radio. An FCC investigation of Rexing’s products revealed several violations of the agency’s equipment rules, including that some models had not been properly tested or authorized and that Rexing did not retain required test data.
Ultimately, the consent decree required Rexing to pay a $75,000 fine and engage in a multi-year compliance plan. The company already had engaged in remediation of certain violations during the FCC investigation. While the amount of the fine was relatively low, the ability to pay is one factor that the FCC considers in determining penalties, and we would expect the FCC to seek higher fines from larger retailers.
Our advice? Take responsibility for ensuring compliance for any electronic or wireless device that is imported, marketed, or sold within the U.S. by developing an FCC compliance plan. This should include assigning responsibility to verify the accuracy of FCC authorizations and labels, carefully selecting a supplier or manufacturer, and using an authorized FCC test laboratory.