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I have a bluetooth remote control device that uses 2 AA batteries. Due to positive feedback and responses, I'm thinking to sell it to mass market. Thus I need FCC certification.

After reading many articles including all the FCC related questions in this site, I'm still confused.

  1. There are many of wireless products in US market that don't have FCC / CE certification. Many of imported products sold in Amazon don't have the certification. With such a high cost ($10,000-$20,000), I don't think many small company can afford to get this certification. What is consequences if you sell the product without FCC certification?

  2. Before I apply for FCC, what are the things that I need to watch out, especially my PCB. Do I have to care about the box(enclosure)? I mean, my product uses 2 batteries, I don't think it will cause a fire hazard or short circuit. Or if I have to watch out for fire hazard, what component should I add?
    The bluetooth module is already certified by FCC and CE. So I will be exempted for the Bluetooth test. But I guess they still need test the product as a whole.

  3. What if you failed for the first test, do you have to redo all over again and pay another $10,000?

Thank you.

Dan

Additional info: Q: I’m a retailer, why should I care about FCC regulations? A: It is illegal to import, sell, or operate covered equipment that has not undergone the required equipment authorization procedure. Illegal merchandise can be subject to forfeiture, and you may be subject to fine. Imported merchandise that does not have FCC may be held at customs. Also lack of FCC compliance means the merchandise has never been evaluated for electronic compatibility. This is a sign of bad quality. What other safety or chemical regulatory requirements might not have been evaluated? FCC enforcement action is often levied against retailers and end users, especially where the manufacturer is located outside US jurisdiction. FCC FAQ

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You can post the additional info as an answer. It's OK to answer your own question, I've done it a few times too. You just don't get rep for accepting it. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jul 16 '11 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about its UL status? \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jul 16 '11 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Got it steve. What's is UL stands for? \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Underwriters Laboratories. A certification organization \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jul 16 '11 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see. @Russel: Is there something I need to concert or check about UL? \$\endgroup\$ – mlam Jul 16 '11 at 15:45
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I'm no lawyer, but have been thru the FCC testing process a few times. For a ordinary device that doesn't deliberately transmit (called "unintentional radiator" by the FCC), there is no legal requirement for certifcation. There are legal requirements for what it is allowed to emit, but it up to you how to make sure your device works within the rules.

You can simply sell a unintentionally radiating device without testing. However, if someone files a complaint and the device is found to exceed the legal radiation limits, you're in deep doodoo. If you had the device tested by a accredited test lab and they determined it was within the limits, your legal case will be much better. The FCC still has the right to force you to withdraw the product and even confiscate every unit out there, but if you can show you followed accepted practices of testing then there will be much less of a issue of punative actions.

Intentional radiators are a different story. You do have to have FCC certification to legally sell one in the United States. When the device is certified, you get a certification ID, and that ID generally has to be indicated somewhere on the outside of the device where others can see it.

In the case of a bluetooth module, most likely the module vendor has gotten the certification for the module. If not, I wouldn't go near it. Even if so though, you are still on the hook for the product as a whole. The module will also be certified with some restrictions, like a specific list of antennas that it is certified with. If you attach a different antenna, for example, the module is no longer certified and you're on your own.

If you're trying to sell a intentionally radiating product, you'd better talk to a expert early in the process. You can wing it a bit with unitnentional radiators, but you really don't want to play games with intentional radiators, even if you're using a certified module that does all the intentional radiating.

It might be a good idea to talk to a testing house. They generally will know all the rules. Just keep in mind they sell testing services, and their answers may a bit biased towards you needing a lot of testing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For the unintentionally radiating device situation seems to be similar to CE compliance. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jul 16 '11 at 15:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Olin, this is insightful. Thank you. My bluetooth module is certfied and I don't change anything on it. It does transmit/receive data. I guess my product is Intentionally Radiating product. Do I still need to go through the test as a whole product? If the manufacturing house has FCC certification, does it automatically make product some how comply to FCC? \$\endgroup\$ – mlam Jul 16 '11 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Olin, how much did you pay for the FCC testing and how long was the process? \$\endgroup\$ – mlam Jul 16 '11 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mlam: Getting a unintentional radiator thru testing can be as little as a few 1000 $, if you've done your design right and it just passes the first time. It's probably better to plan on two test rounds. Testing intentional radiators costs more, and there's always some issue, so figure a few 10s of k$ for something reasonably simple when things go well. It goes up from there, sometimes way up, depending on how complicated the device and how much you know what you're doing. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jul 16 '11 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Daniel: Nope, they only care that your device doesn't pollute the RF spectrum. Worrying about whether the device will fry someone or burn their house down is someone else's problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Jul 17 '11 at 12:13
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I know this is an older post, but after reading it I was a little troubled to see so much miss-information and ignorance in the comments that I had to chime in. My background? Over 20 years in regulatory compliance and testing. I am also a Telecommunication Certification Body for FCC certification in the United States.

I'll take your points one by one;

1) The consequences are that it is illegal in the United States to market, sell or offer for sale devices subject to FCC rules that have not been properly subjected to the required FCC Authorizations. A fine of $10,000 per day per violation can be assessed. The total amount of the violation is at the discretion of the commission and will be adjusted upward for willful and repeated violations. Many FCC compliance investigations start with the competition reporting the violations.

2) If your product uses a "certified" Bluetooth module then you don't need to "apply" for FCC. The "application" process is applicable to "certification", you would be performing "verification" in this case (test and document). However, watch out, there are approved modules but you MUST comply with the grant conditions. For example, most Bluetooth modules have been tested and certificated in what is called a "mobile" configuration. You cannot use that module in a "portable" configuration without further authorization. The difference is "mobile" is used greater than 20cm away from the body, "portable" is used within 20cm. Lastly, rechargeable batteries can cause a fire hazard, particularly if the charging circuit is within the device.

3) I don't know who is charging you $10,000, which is high for most FCC certifications. Anyway, some of the cost is associated with testing and some certification, obviously any repeat testing will incur additional costs. I suggest that you work with an experienced knowledgeable compliance expert in the beginning, do some quick testing to check where you stand. This will help keep the overall cost down.

Now, some myth busting from the comments. Forgive the English, I'm quoting verbatim;

"You can simply sell an unintentionally radiating device without testing" WRONG all "radio frequency devices" be it intentional or unintentional would require compliance testing. A radio frequency device is any device that uses signals in excess of 9kHz. Basically, if it has a chip, you must test. Some exceptions for appliances, devices used exclusively in motor vehicles, very low energy devices and others exist, this is why it is important to consult an expert.

"You can put the CE mark if you think your product is comply with CE standards" WRONG Placing the CE mark is the responsible party's indication and commitment that the device does comply with "all" applicable CE marking directives. The responsible party must also issue a written "Declaration of Conformity" attesting to that fact. Often times this either requires the party to test to harmonized standards in full, or seek a qualified expert's evaluation. These experts are known as "Notified Bodies" In any event a compliance folder will be maintained that contains proof of compliance. This will be made available on request to any regulatory authority.

"If it's go through a test lab, they are the one will be responsible if the product "failed" the test." WRONG. I'm still laughing at this comment. The responsibility for compliance never rests with the test lab. The test lab will not be fined by any government if your product fails to comply, you will be. The lab could be subject to civil action from an angry customer and lose a lot of business for being incompetent, but don't fool yourself in thinking it's not your responsibility. Pick a good lab!

Visit http://EMCrules.com for news and updates on EMC regulations.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You said "it is illegal in the United States to market, sell or offer for sale devices subject to FCC rules that have not been..." but by this standard, if an overseas exporter sells an unapproved device directly to a domestic user in the US, both parties would still be within legal confines? \$\endgroup\$ – Kar Apr 26 '15 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JOHN MUNROE, If a domestic user purchases an unapproved device, that user has no authority to operate the device. One example are cell jamming devices that are illegal in the United States. The user could still face fines for operating such a device. While the manufacturer would still be breaking the law, the user would also face fines from the FCC for operating it. \$\endgroup\$ – jklinger Apr 29 '15 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jklinger Why would the manufacture be breaking the law when the rules specify it is prohibited to just import, market or operate. The manufacturer would be an exporter. \$\endgroup\$ – WKleinberg Mar 28 '16 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WKleinberg - No actually, the law doesn't prohibit just importation, the term used is "Marketing" and this is defined as; "Marketing includes sale or lease, or offering for sale or lease, including advertising for sale or lease, or importation, shipment, or distribution for the purpose of selling or leasing or offering for sale or lease." \$\endgroup\$ – jklinger Jun 7 '16 at 15:37
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As commented in this answer labeling your product with the CE mark doesn't have to mean that it has actually been tested for compliance. It just claims it's CE compliant. So it doesn't have to cost you anything if you're confident that it's OK.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @stevenvh. You mean it's legal to just put the CE mark on the box? \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but be sure you know what you're doing. A third party (an unsatisfied customer, or a competitor) can challenge your claim, and then you'll have to do the tests after all to prove it's compliant. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jul 16 '11 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the mark has to go on the product itself as well, the box won't do. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jul 16 '11 at 14:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seldom see a product with a CE mark. Mostly it's put on the manual or boxes. I just put a link about FCC FAQ. : I’m a retailer, why should I care about FCC regulations? A: It is illegal to import, sell, or operate covered equipment that has not undergone the required equipment authorization procedure. Illegal merchandise can be subject to forfeiture, and you may be subject to fine. Imported merchandise that does not have FCC may be held at customs. Also lack of FCC compliance means the merchandise has never been evaluated for electronic compatibility. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Jul 16 '11 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the vast majority of cases, it is not possible to be confident about compliance without testing. So just putting a CE mark on a box withing nothing to back it up is lying. If a challenge forces you to "test after all" then you shouldn't have had the mark in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – bt2 Dec 27 '14 at 21:35
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Just want to add comment to @stevenvh. I called one of the testing house. For CE mark, You don't need to send it to a test lab. You can put the CE mark if you think your product is comply with CE standards.

BUT ..., if the CE organization feel your product does not comply and failed the test, you are in for big trouble. You have to withdraw all your products with you own cost.

If it's go through a test lab, they are the one will be responsible if the product "failed" the test.

For FCC, it's a must that you have to go through the test lab.

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  1. What if you failed for the first test, do you have to redo all over again and pay another $10,000?

That's between you and the testing house. Ask up front.

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