FCC Takes Action On Company Marketing Unauthorized Two-Way Radio

Date:Dec 24, 2018

The FCC released a citation and order notifying Amcrest Industries, selling Baofeng radios, that it is marketing an unauthorized RF device — a handheld two-way radio — in violation of the FCC’s rules.

“We therefore direct Amcrest to take immediate steps to come into compliance with the commission’s equipment authorization rules and cease marketing unauthorized RF devices in the United States,” the order said. “If Amcrest fails to comply with these laws, it may be liable for significant fines of up to $19,639 per day and other sanctions.”

In March 2013, the Enforcement Bureau’s Spectrum Enforcement Division (SED) received a complaint alleging that Baofeng radio model UV-5R was capable of transmitting on land mobile frequencies using the equipment’s external controls and operating at power levels above those specified in its equipment authorization. In October 2017, SED issued a letter of inquiry (LOI) to Amcrest, an authorized distributor of Baofeng radios, directing it to submit a sworn written response to a series of questions relating to these allegations. Follow-up letters were sent, and Amcrest responded.

Amcrest said it began marketing four models of the Baofeng radio UV-5R series in June 2013; it ceased doing so with respect to three of them (UV-5R, UV-5RA, UV-5RE) “a few years ago.” The company nonetheless failed to remove these three models from its website until February 2018, following its receipt of the letter. Amcrest currently markets only one model of the Baofeng radio UV-5R series, the UV-5R V2+.14

The company confirmed with the manufacturer that model UV- 5R V2+ is capable of operating on “restricted frequencies,” though it is incapable of operating at power levels above those specified in its equipment authorization. The company then instructed the manufacturer to rectify the issue and subsequently confirmed with the manufacturer that “all inventory currently on order and in the future will operate only on 145-155 MHz and 400-520 MHz.”

“While we recognize Amcrest’s efforts to date to achieve compliance with the commission’s rules, the company must nonetheless ensure the version of the UV-5R V2+ it is marketing operates only on frequencies specified in its equipment authorization,” the order said.

Amcrest is required to provide requested documents to the FCC within 30 days from the citation. If Amcrest again violates the FCC’s rules the commission may impose sanctions for each such violation. For example, the commission may impose forfeitures not to exceed $19,639 for each such violation or each day of a continuing violation, and up to $147,290 for any single act or failure to act.

The citation follows a February letter from the Land Mobile Communications Council (LMCC) to Rosemary Harold, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, requesting a meeting about the widespread use of noncompliant wireless devices. The Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA), a member of LMCC, said in January it would prepare the letter requesting a meeting.

“This enforcement action is long overdue, but it is welcome and most timely nevertheless, given the explosion in importation and marketing and sale of the radios to the general public,” said ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay. “ARRL and JVCKENWOOD are grateful to EWA and LMCC for their leadership in advocacy at FCC that led directly to this enforcement action.”

Imlay cited several problems with certain radios imported from China and elsewhere: The prices are so low that the manufacturers and importers are “dumping” the radios in the United States in violation of U.S. antitrust laws, harming competition; the radios are typically capable of field programming, making them ineligible to receive grants of Part 90 certification, and thus it is impossible to legally sell or market them to land mobile eligibles; and they have not typically been tested for spurious or harmonic emissions compliance.

“None of this is important to these unscrupulous manufacturers or importers because their actual market is the general consumer market,” he said. “Many radios come pre-programmed on public safety, critical infrastructure or industrial/business/land transportation  channels.