Consent decree resolves claim of failure to comply with digital device rules.

For the second time in less than a year, the FCC has moved against a manufacturer of audio gear for violation of its “digital device” rules.

Digital equipment – which nowadays includes almost everything with an on/off switch – generates internal signals that operate at radio-type frequencies. Inevitably, some of that energy leaks out in the form of radio waves. Because the leakage has the potential to interfere with radio communications, the FCC sets maximum limits, and mandates procedures manufacturers must use to establish and document their compliance with those limits.

A company called American Music and Sound (AMS) got in trouble with the FCC for not having complied with those procedures. In entering into a consent decree, it did not admit wrongdoing, but did agree to a “voluntary contribution” of $72,000 to settle the charges. This follows a similar case last May.

The AMS case is troubling because the company manufactures gear for professionals, not consumers, which made it subject to a relatively painless regulatory regime. Compliance with respect to any particular device consists of measuring that device’s radio-frequency emissions (which can be ten times higher than for a consumer product), and putting the test results in a drawer. There are no requirements for the test lab, no submission to the FCC, and no special labeling. (Procedures for consumer products are only a little more involved.)

Other manufacturers might benefit from AMS’s misfortune. If you (a) make a product having any digital components, and (b) do not qualify for a small handful of exceptions, then you are regulated by the FCC and you ignore its rules at your peril.