Up to 20% of PCs on retail shelves may not meet New Zealand’s Radio communications Regulations of 1993, which aim to prevent interference to radio communications services.
The Commerce Ministry’s manager of licensing and enforcement, Ralph Jaeger, says the ministry deals with fewer than 100 interference cases a year caused by computer equipment, although many of these cases have poor reception of radio services as a compounding factor.
To fully comply with the regulations, computers must have declarations of conformity registered with the ministry.
Auckland’s Sunskind Computers recently came up against the regulations when someone complained about one of its computers causing interference to a television reception. Although that case was complicated by a low television signal, it did reveal that no products carrying the Suns-kind name had declarations of conformity registered with the ministry.
Jaeger emphasises computer products which do not have declarations of conformity will not automatically cause radio or television interference.
In Sunskind’s case, all it needs to do is provide evidence that its products comply with the required standard, and make declarations of conformity for its products.
Jaeger says that where interference occurs, the ministry normally takes administrative action to educate the supplier and the user of their responsibilities under the regulations. It is only if that fails to eliminate the interference that the ministry would consider more serious steps such as legal action as a last resort.
Should legal action be taken, the maximum penalty upon conviction is $10,000, plus forfeiture of the non-compliant equipment.
Jaeger says that, in general, personal computer suppliers attempt to meet the requirements of the radiocommunications regulations.
“I would estimate that about 60% of personal computers sold fully meet the regulations, with possibly a further 20% meeting the required standard. The last 20% are sold by a huge number of outlets that may only sell one or two of a particular model. It is almost impossible for these suppliers to meet the requirements of the regulations as they will not be in a situation where they can verify compliance with the standard.”
Jaeger says those suppliers could greatly improve their chances of compliance by carefully selecting cases and power supplies that have radio frequency interference prevention measures in their designs.
“In most cases the ministry would accept this as a valid attempt to achieve compliance for their products.”
While Jaeger says he should not anticipate the outcome of the ministry’s investigation into Sunskind’s compliance with the regulations, he does not believe consumers should be “overly concerned”.
Jaeger says the ministry has no problem with people who already own a Sunskind machine continuing to use it, providing they are not causing interference to radio services.
“The ministry will not take any action against individuals who own Sunskind computer equipment, other than in cases of interference. These actions will not be punitive, in any case.
“If consumers feel they cannot keep their computer equipment, then they have a case under the Consumer Guarantees Act for recourse to their immediate supplier.”
Sunskind is in the process of having tests done to obtain declarations of conformity, and spokesman Lance Curry says both he and the ministry are confident the machines will be given declarations.
Despite being in the computer industry since 1982, Curry says he had not been clear about the need for the declarations. He believed more information from the ministry would help with awareness of the issue.
He says he had expected getting declarations would be a complicated process, but after speaking with the ministry he accepts it is relatively simple.
He advises other companies like Suns-kind to check their machines had declarations, and to obtain declarations if they did not.
He says the problem which sparked the ministry investigation was caused by one computer which developed a fault within the power supply.
He believes Sunskind would have been aware of any major problems by now because of the volume of computers it sells. He also points out that the motherboard and video cards have declarations of conformity from the US, which he says the ministry accepts. The power supply and case meet European standards.
Curry says if any Sunskind customers need any reassurances about the products, he says they can contact him, as he is “more than willing to talk to them”.