Some US LED sign manufacturers started making noises a couple of years ago about competing manufacturers – especially those from China – were selling product that did not comply with US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations.
The primary argument was that the FCC has rules in place that ensure light-emitting display devices do not interfere with authorized radio transmissions, like AM radio stations. In a nutshell – the FCC requires that electronic equipment, such as digital signs, be tested to ensure they are not radiating interference that exceeds specified levels.
Some state-side manufacturers argued that Chinese companies were selling budget displays with components that would not meet FCC requirements.
The last time we looked at this, a half-dozen companies had been nailed for varying degrees of compliance, some of those infractions pinned to paperwork or mislabeling. Now the FCC says since March of this year it has entered into 21 settlement agreements with companies identified as marketing non-compliant LED signs, in violation of the Communications Act and FCC rules. The settlements were as high as $115,000 and totalled $850,000 in penalties paid to the U.S. Treasury.
Some of them are, as predicted, Chinese firms that are not well known here, but there are also some big names like Absen and Lighthouse, and a couple of US-based companies. There are some pretty hefty fines for what seem, at least, like pedestrian stuff, such as “violating the Equipment Marketing Rules by marketing LED signs without the required labeling.”
Lighthouse paid the biggest penalty: The investigation, the FCC said, revealed that Lighthouse violated the Equipment Marketing Rules by marketing certain LED signs without the required equipment authorizations.
Lighthouse has since achieved that compliance, says the FCC.
From the FCC release:
Adherence to the FCC’s equipment authorization and marketing rules is critical because radio frequency emissions from the signs may cause harmful interference to licensed communications, such as wireless services.
“In light of these recent settlements, we remind LED sign marketers of their obligations under the law,” says Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold. “The FCC takes seriously its responsibility in ensuring that energy-emitting devices like LED lights do not interfere with authorized transmissions.”
LED lights are often used in digital billboards and other commercial and industrial applications, including billboards and large video displays in sports arenas. Given the electrical design of these lights, they may emit radio frequency energy. Prior to being marketed in the United States, LED sign models must be tested and comply with FCC technical standards and must include the proper labeling, identification, and user information disclosures.
The equipment authorization process for RF devices, including LED signs, is overseen by the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology.
The Enforcement Bureau investigated hundreds of indoor and outdoor LED sign models and discovered repeated FCC rule violations concerning the failure to market the models with the required equipment authorizations, labeling, and user information disclosures. To settle its respective investigation, each company verified that the models at issue were brought into compliance with FCC rules, agreed to pay a monetary penalty, and committed to abide by a compliance plan to improve internal procedures to avoid future violations.
Here’s a wide sampling of the settlements, with the links and the amounts:
Gable – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-1051A1.pdf – $50,000
Adaptive Microsystems – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-996A1.pdf – $50,000
Hyoco – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-970A1.pdf – $21,000
NanoLumens – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-654A1.pdf – $27,500
Electro-Matic Visual – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-696A1.pdf – $105,000
Vantage LED – https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-settles-equipment-marketing-investigation-vantage-led – $15,000
Yaham – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-656A1.pdf – $20,000
D3 – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-626A1.pdf – $40,000
Thinksign – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-757A1.pdf – $43,000
Prismview – https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-572A1.pdf – $14,000
Liantronics – https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-settles-equipment-marketing-investigation-liantronics – $61,000
Lighthouse – https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-settles-115000-led-sign-investigation-lighthouse – $115,000
Each settlement is available on the Bureau homepage at https://www.fcc.gov/enforcement.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.