Failure to respond to FCC notices can have adverse consequences.
When the FCC proposed to fine Chinese company C.T.S. Technology $34,912,500 a couple of years ago for marketing jammers in the United States, we predicted it would have trouble collecting. Silly us – we underestimated the FCC’s problems in even communicating with C.T.S., which did not respond at all to a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL). The FCC has now issued a Forfeiture Order that enters a default judgment against C.T.S, making the full $34.9 million payable within 30 days. One potential sticking point: the FCC can’t prove that C.T.S. in fact received the NAL. Not willing to take no answer for an answer, the FCC is invoking the fine print of a treaty called The Hague Service Convention which, according to the FCC, allows it to enter a judgment anyway. No details yet on how the FCC plans to collect the money.
More surprising to us is the decision of Mr. Jason R. Humphreys, who has chosen to ignore an NAL of his own. Mr. Humphreys, you will recall, allegedly used a cell phone jammer on his daily Florida commute to keep other drivers from talking on their phones. The FCC proposed a fine of $48,000, higher than it usually inflicts on individuals. But the FCC routinely reduces fines on individuals, sometimes by 90%, if the person can’t pay the original amount. Before the FCC will turn lenient, though, the individual has to demonstrate an actual inability to pay. In this case, Mr. Humphreys remained silent. This was not for lack of trying on the FCC’s part. It sent the NAL by certified mail (and got the receipt). It followed up with two subsequent notices advising Mr. Humphreys of his options, but those went unclaimed. FCC staff also tried three times to reach Mr. Humphreys by phone. They got an answer once, but were disconnected, and had no answer to an immediate return call.
A Forfeiture Order now makes the full $48,000 payable within 30 days. The next FCC-related communication to Mr. Humphreys, if he does not respond to this one, may be a federal district court summons as the government attempts to collect the fine. There, things will only get worse. We don’t know the particulars of Mr. Humphreys’s situation and are in no position to offer advice, but as a general rule, the FCC (like Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction) is not going to be ignored.