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FCC Threatens 'Lifetime Ban' on Non-Compliant RF Equipment Suppliers

RFID sellers should adopt best practices to mitigate risk.
By Ronald E. Quirk
May 28, 2017

On May 23, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an Order and Consent Decree, imposing a steep fine and other penalties on a manufacturer and distributor of radio frequency (RF) devices that failed to comply with the FCC's testing and authorization rules before marketing its product. The devices reportedly caused interference to radio transmissions, which resulted in the FCC conducting an investigation of the manufacturer.

After the manufacturer fixed the interference problem and proactively complied with the FCC's RF equipment rules, the FCC agreed to a consent decree to resolve the case. Specifically, the FCC agreed to terminate the investigation in exchange for the manufacturer agreeing to pay $90,000 to the U.S. Treasury and implement a strict compliance program.

FCC Could Ban Non-Compliant RFID Suppliers from Selling Their Products
The FCC also issued a threat to future RF equipment manufacturers and other responsible parties that market unauthorized equipment. Specifically, the FCC asserted its authority to conduct hearings and declare non-compliant RF equipment suppliers unqualified to hold any type of FCC authorization.

This is a critically important development that affects RFID equipment manufacturers and vendors. Because virtually all devices that generate RF energy (including RFID readers and tags) are subject to FCC rules, this case underscores the importance of RFID suppliers ensuring full compliance with FCC rules prior to marketing their equipment.

FCC Compliance Requirements for RFID Suppliers
RFID operations are regulated under Part 15 of the FCC's rules for low-power devices. Because RFID devices transmit radio waves, they are classified by the FCC as "intentional radiators." The FCC's rules require that an intentional radiator be authorized via the certification process. A certification is issued by an FCC-authorized Telecommunications Certification Body (TCB) based on representations and test data submitted by the applicant. Any entity seeking to obtain certification of an RF device must comply with the following procedures:

First, the responsible party must obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN). An FRN, which is required of all entities that do business with the FCC, is available for free by registering via the FCC's website.

Second, an FCC Grantee Code must be procured. A Grantee Code is a three- or five-digit code used to designate the manufacturer or other responsible party (referred to as the "grantee") for certified RF devices. A Grantee Code may be obtained by an online application through the FCC's website.

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