FCC slaps Pilot Travel Centers with hefty fine

| 12/6/2004

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed imposing $125,000 fine on Pilot Travel Centers LLC for allegedly marketing unauthorized radio frequency devices –specifically, transceivers labeled as Amateur Radio Service (ARS) equipment but intended for use on both Citizens Band and amateur frequencies.

According to FCC records, Pilot had been warned a number of times about the sales of the devices.

According to a newsletter published by the Amateur Radio Relay League, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability on Nov. 22. It asserts that Pilot continued to market CB transceivers labeled as amateur gear despite multiple citations and warnings. The radio league says CB transmitters must receive FCC certification – formerly called “type acceptance.” Amateur radio equipment does not require FCC certification.

“Commission field offices issued a total of nine citations to Pilot’s corporate headquarters and its retail outlets warning Pilot that future violations would subject Pilot to penalties including civil monetary forfeitures,” the FCC said.

The commission alleges that from October 2002 until July 2004, Pilot, in 47 separate instances, offered for sale various models of non-certificated Galaxy CB transceivers labeled as “amateur radios” that easily could be modified for CB operation. The FCC says in some instances, Pilot employees referred to the units as “CBs.”

Following up on complaints received between 2001 and 2003, FCC Enforcement Bureau field agents visited 11 Pilot retail outlets in Texas, Oregon, California and Nevada.

“At these locations, the stores displayed and offered for sale various models of non-certified CB transceivers marketed as ARS transmitters,” the FCC said.

According to the radio league newsletter, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology already had determined that the units could be modified easily for CB operation and were subject to FCC certification prior to marketing.

Responding to the citations, Pilot told the FCC that all of the radios in question were “marketed as amateur radios and, as sold, operate on the 10-meter amateur band,” according to the radio league. Pilot contended the units fell under Part 97 rules and didn’t require FCC certification. In January 2002, the FCC Dallas Field Office advised Pilot that the devices referred to in the citation had built-in design features to facilitate CB operation and that the FCC considered them CB transmitters that fall under Part 95 rules. The FCC’s notice of apparent liability says the Dallas Field Office received no further response from Pilot.

The FCC pointed out that it requires a grant of certification for any Amateur Radio Service transceiver designed to be easily user-modified to extend its operating frequency range into the Citizens Band.

The FCC said that on three days last December, FCC agents purchased Galaxy transceivers from different Pilot retail stores. The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology subsequently determined that all were non-certificated CB transmitters under the FCC’s definition. Those sales provided the basis for the proposed fine. Ultimately, the FCC alleged that Pilot offered non-certificated CB transmitters for sale on 13 occasions in 2003 and 2004 “in apparent willful and repeated violation” of the Communications Act of 1934 and FCC rules.

According to the radio leaguenewsletter, the FCC cited its concern with “the pattern of apparent violations” in the Pilot case and actually adjusted the base forfeiture amount upward from $91,000 to $125,000.

“We are particularly troubled that Pilot continues to violate these rules despite receiving nine citations for marketing non-certified CB transmitters,” the commission’s Nov. 22 notice stated. “Pilot's continuing violations of the equipment authorization requirements evince a pattern of intentional noncompliance with and apparent disregard for these rules.”

According to the FCC’s Web site, Pilot was given until Dec. 22 to respond. The company’s options are either paying or appealing the fine.