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FCC Compliance Challenges
Purchasers of RFID interrogators should be sure their contracts guarantee the regulatory compliance of the devices and their components.
May 22, 2006—It happens when you least expect it. You carefully evaluate the technical needs of your business, research the RFID system that fits your requirements, consult with various vendors to get the right equipment at the right price, sign the vendor contract, get ready to deploy your new network, and then...you receive a letter from the vendor stating it has stopped shipping its RFID products due to possible violations of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) equipment certification rules.
This scenario recently happened to customers of Applied Wireless Identifications (AWID), a manufacturer of RFID readers (interrogators). AWID has been producing quality RFID equipment for many years, but due to recent notification from a customer that some of its products may not have been FCC-compliant, AWID was forced to stop shipping and importing its equipment, pending an investigation into the potential FCC noncompliance matter (see AWID Halts Sales of RFID Readers).
Because RFID devices transmit radio frequency (RF) energy and have the potential to cause harmful interference to other radio devices, they are subject to FCC regulation. Section 302(b) of the Federal Communications Act specifically prohibits the manufacturing, importation, marketing or use of any radio device that does not comply with FCC rules. The pertinent FCC rules for RFID concern RF emissions limits, power restrictions and uses of certain frequencies. In order to confirm that RFID devices comport with its rules, the FCC requires that they be tested and certified. With some limited exceptions—e.g., trade-show demonstrations—no RFID device may be imported, marketed or operated prior to FCC certification.
The consequences of ignoring FCC requirements and failing to take precautions in the event of inadvertent violations can be much more severe than delayed equipment deliveries. If, for example, a business buys RFID equipment that has not been certified or is otherwise in violation of the rules, the FCC can, at any time, legally force that business to stop operating said equipment. Additionally, anyone who sells or operates such equipment can be subject to substantial fines or other enforcement actions by the FCC.
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