On February 2 the FCC proposed two fines resulting from sloppy paperwork by manufacturers.

One concerns “verified” equipment, which makes it a rarity in FCC jurisprudence. Verification is a form of equipment authorization that does not require any filings with the FCC, and so it is not often a target of enforcement. This time, though, the FCC became interested when it checked the website of Inter Tech FM, which manufactures fifteen models of FM broadcast transmitters. (Why? We don’t know. But often these investigations start with a tip from a disgruntled competitor.) When asked, Inter Tech was unable to produce its copies of the paperwork that the verification procedure requires. It also told the FCC it had discontinued marketing a particular model, even though the model was still being promoted on the company’s website. The FCC proposed a fine of $7,000 for the verification violations. With regard to the company’s misinformation about the model on the website, the FCC proposed to fine it $11,000 for “provid[ing] material factual information that is incorrect . . . without a reasonable basis for believing that any such material factual statement is correct and not misleading” – in other words, for getting it wrong without checking the facts first.

Inter Tech was lucky. The FCC could have imposed the $7,000 fine separately for each of the fifteen different models. It might also have started criminal proceedings for lying to federal officials – the same offense that put Martha Stewart in an orange jumpsuit back in 2004.

On the same day, the FCC cited Proxim, a long-standing industry participant that manufactures a wide range of wireless products. Proxim had shipped 5,500 wireless access points labeled with the wrong FCC ID number. Some of the units also failed to comply with a U.S. technical rule, although they may be lawful in other countries. The result is a proposed fine of $11,000.

One can always learn from others’ misfortune. All of these violations – probably even the Proxim technical noncompliance – resulted from paperwork slip-ups. Every company that deals in FCC-regulated products, whether as manufacturer, importer, distributor, or retailer, needs a system in place to track FCC labeling and record-keeping requirements. If nobody has checked your company’s system lately, now is a good time.

The FCC orders can be read here and here.