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FCC hits California company with citation over illegal radios

Rugged Radios illegally marketed six radios that fell outside the scope of federal regulations, according to a bulletin.

Rugged Radios illegally marketed six radios that fell outside the scope of federal regulations, according to a bulletin.

A Rugged Radios transceiver that was at the center of an FCC probe over certification and authorized use. (Photo via Amazon, Graphic by The Desk)

The Federal Communications Commission cited a California company last month for marketing and selling six radios that ran afoul of federal regulations.

Rugged Radios of Arroyo Grande marketed four radios that allowed programmers to receive and transmit on frequencies that the FCC never authorized and another two radios sold that never received FCC approval at all, according to a public notice filed with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau in November.

All of the radios in question were first offered for sale by Rugged Radios between 2014 and 2017, the FCC said.

Rugged Radio markets radio scanners and transceivers primarily to car racing crews and enthusiasts, though it also pitches those devices and others to speed boat racers and public safety officials, according to a review of its website.

Before manufacturing and selling the radios, Rugged and other companies must receive approval from the FCC, which includes subjecting the equipment to rigorous testing to ensure it’s safe to use, won’t cause undue interference with nearby radio equipment and won’t operate on frequencies other than ones that are approved by the FCC.

In Rugged’s case, the company marketed radios that allowed tech-savvy users to program additional frequencies beyond those that the FCC authorized, the Enforcement Bureau said. In some cases, Rugged Radios was accused of illegally programming the radios themselves, the FCC said.

Two of the six radios scrutinized by the FCC “had never been authorized for sale in the United States,” the agency asserted.

In 2018, the FCC began probing Rugged Radio’s marketing and sales of six devices, a public notice said. More than once, Rugged Radio provided “incomplete, inconsistent or inaccurate statements” in response to the FCC’s questions, the bureau said.

Eventually, Rugged Radio corrected its inaccurate remarks in a final response submitted to the agency. The company blamed manufacturers and suppliers for some of its earlier falsehoods, the bureau said in a footnote.

After the FCC’s probe, Rugged Radios stopped marketing and selling four of the six models in question, while it chose to modify two other radios so that they couldn’t be programmed by users to receive radio frequencies that were unauthorized, the FCC said. Those company decided to stop selling those last two radios in May of this year.

Last month, the FCC wrapped up its investigation and found Rugged Radio at fault for its marketing and sales tactics, which it said exceeded the scope of what the agency allowed. It directed Rugged Radio to stop selling any other non-compliant radios or face a possible $20,489 fine per instance, per day.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).