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FCC Enforcement Update

FCC Enforcement Update Image

Fish & Richardson follows all FCC enforcement actions, including those involving violations of the FCC’s equipment marketing rules and technical standards.  We represent and work with manufacturers, vendors, retailers, distributors, laboratories, telecommunications certification bodies, licensees, service providers and others across a wide variety of industries.

There have been significant changes in enforcement in 2014, including the ushering in of a new Bureau Chief.  We negotiated several enforcement matters and saw interesting developments take place.  First, the penalties are becoming steep.  In June, the FCC levied a historic $36.9 Million forfeiture against a Chinese signal jammer manufacturer.  Forfeitures and consent decree payments are generally higher too, with several manufacturers and equipment retailers paying six-figure amounts.  The FCC is exercising its discretion to increase base fines and tally up multiple violations related FCC-Enforcemet-Learn-More-Buttonto an offense.

Consent decrees, which have long been used as a tool to settle FCC investigations, have changed too.  Companies no longer pay a “voluntary contribution to the United States Treasury”; they now pay a “civil penalty.”  More importantly, companies must now admit to liability in the consent decree.  One of the major benefits of consent decrees in the past was that it expressly stated that the targeted company had not been found guilty.  Not only is that statement gone, the company must actually admit it violated the rules.  We’ve analyzed this issue extensively, and recommend that companies consider the potential long-term ramifications of such admissions.

The FCC is branching into new areas to enforce.  The FCC recently proposed a $10 Million forfeiture against two telecommunications providers that stored customer information on unprotected servers.  The two Republican Commissioners objected to that decision, essentially saying that the FCC is making up new rules no one knows about it and then fining companies for violating those rules.  Marriott paid $600,000 for deactivating “rogue” wireless access points at a hotel, an action it claims (and later filed a petition asking the FCC to declare) was a perfectly lawful practice to manage its network.

These changes indicate that this FCC wants companies to be held publicly accountable for rule violations and pay fines that won’t just be another cost of business.  It’s a good time to make sure your house is in order.  Companies subject to the FCC’s jurisdiction should have internal FCC compliance plans that are up-to-date and implemented across the company.

For more information or assistance, please contact:

Terry_MahnTerry Mahn
202-626-6421
mahn@fr.com
Donna_BalaguerDonna Balaguer
202-626-7719
balaguer@fr.com

Trends in FCC Enforcement – Equipment Violations 

Since 2006, Fish’s FCC enforcement matrix has made it easy to spot certain trends that should give manufacturers and test labs an idea of the types of FCC Enforcement Update Equipment Violations 2014_Page_1enforcement activities the FCC staff has been pursuing for equipment-related violations. It’s clear that even minor rule violations can result in forfeitures. Forfeitures are also steeper than in the past, with the FCC tallying up separate shipments or models to assess the amount.

View our most recent update and access our archive below.

2014

2006-2013