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25 July 2018

Switzerland: Buyers Are Responsible for Compliance with Technical Regulations

The 14-franc toy becomes a cost trap
by Lorenz Keller, blick.ch, 24 July 2018 - translation

OFCOM initiates proceedings for 840 francs

Drones, child radios, remote-controlled toys: all popular gadgets from online shopping abroad or as a souvenir from the holidays. But beware: If they are not Swiss, it can be expensive.

The 14-france toy may not be operated in Switzerland
Lorezz Keller
The pleasure of the remote-controlled boat for 14 francs from the Chinese shop lasted only briefly. A few days after publication of the test video on Blick.ch, the [Swiss] Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) wrote an e-mail: "As part of the supervision of telecommunications equipment (including R / C models) OFCOM controls compliance with the legal requirements for the commercially available devices. »

The boat must be sent for verification. If everything is okay, it will be sent back. If the boat is not sent in or if it is not compliant, there is threat of a fine of up to 5000 francs and the toy with the remote control will be destroyed.

Email assurance of the seller Gearbest.com that the remote control of the boat complies with the CE standard and thus approved throughout Europe, is not sufficient proof. Because what almost nobody knows: not only the seller of the products in Switzerland, which fall into the field of telecommunications, is responsible for compliance with the rules, but also those who provide or operate them - the buyer.

The buyer is responsible for compliance with technical regulations

This means: Anyone who brings a device back from the holidays as a private person or orders it in a foreign online shop is responsible for complying with the technical regulations in Switzerland. And these are clear: For remote controlled devices, only special approved radio frequencies may be used - and these only in precisely specified transmission strengths.

Telecommunications equipment includes all devices that use radio frequencies: radios, wireless phones, remote-controlled toys, drones, pacemakers - but also all gadgets with radar, WLAN or Bluetooth.

A huge number of such devices come into Switzerland every year, but OFCOM can only control a fraction. "We conduct about 150 inspections a year," says Lucio Cocciantelli, Section Manager for Market Access and Compliance at OFCOM. This, however, with a success rate of 90 percent - because for the auditors it is usually obvious what is not compliant.

OFCOM list of non-compliant devices

Lucio Cocciantelli names some of the current problem cases: mobile repeaters, which improve mobile phone reception in apartments, often disturb network operators. Wireless phones from the US or Asia use other frequencies, some of which interfere with cell phone reception. Drones with a long range transmit with too much power. On OFCOM's website you can find a whole list of non-compliant devices.

OFCOM not only controls private imports, which often get stuck directly in customs control, but also Swiss traders and providers on the Internet. At shops abroad, OFCOM's hands are tied. "Here we are increasingly relying on cooperation. The suppliers are also interested in their products being legal in Switzerland, "says Lucio Cocciantelli.

When the baby monitor blocks the garage remote

The Federal Office also issues fault reports. Cocciantelli gives a few examples: An imported baby monitor blocked the radio remote controls for the garage of a whole building. Another gadget was interfering with mobile traffic lights, so "red" was shown on both sides. An audio system with radio transmission blocked a crane, as it automatically shuts off for safety as soon as it interferes with its remote control connection.

The cause of such disturbances quickly becomes expensive. If you operate a non-compliant device, you have to pay the costs of the procedure and the test - from a few hundred to a few thousand francs. In the event of failure, costs for researching and rectifying the problem are added. Repeat offenders are subject to fines of up to 100,000 francs, as are commercial providers or intentional acts, for example if a gadget banned in Switzerland is used as a jamming transmitter.

Only those who shop in Switzerland or the EU are on the safe side

What to do if you do not want to do without gadget shopping abroad? "For ordinary buyers, it is unfortunately very difficult to know if a device is compliant," says OFCOM's expert. You are only on the safe side with Swiss dealers, because they are liable for compliance with the regulations. EU countries should also have fewer problems, as the rules are the same.

In general, Bluetooth gadgets are less risky than radios. Whoever wants to deal with it in detail and determine the permitted frequencies for remote-controlled devices, can consult the website of OFCOM under "Equipment & Installations" - technical interface requirements.

Substantial crowding on radio frequencies

There is also a complete guide to the purchase of radio equipment for one's own use on the Internet. "We want to do more educational work in the near future," says Lucio Cocciantelli from OFCOM, especially because more and more Swiss are shopping online abroad. "All manufacturers must follow the rules, because there is substantial crowding on the radio frequencies."

By the way: We got away with a black eye. The remote controlled boat was confiscated, destroyed and prohibited from being sold because the remote control is transmitting on an unauthorized frequency. The legal costs were reduced from 840 to 420 francs. Nevertheless, an expensive bill for a 14-franc toy.

Original article in German:

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