Yes, Asus cheated: The FCC fined the router maker last year

netgear asus lawsuit
Credit: Thinkstock

A number of Asus products—routers, tablets, and wireless extenders—violated FCC interference rules, and the company quietly paid a $240,000 fine last year. The company also settled a very nasty lawsuit in which Netgear accused Asus of unfair competition around the same time.

The last time we reported on Netgear's suit, a federal judge had refused Asus’s request to dismiss the case. Netgear accused Asus of submitting false test results to the FCC in an effort to gain an unfair competitive advantage. And that was the last we heard about the case—until today.

As it turns out, Netgear and Asus arrived at a settlement in August 2014, the terms of which were not disclosed. Today, Netgear brought to my attention the fact that Asus had also settled with the FCC in August, admitting that it violated the agency’s regulations and paying a $240,000 civil fine.

In the FCC settlement, which you can read here, Asus “admits that its marketing of these intentional radiators violated the Commission’s rules.” The violations, as it turned out, weren’t limited to Asus routers. They also involved the Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101, certain wireless routers, and related wireless products, such as Wi-Fi bridge/range extenders and wireless adapters, according to the FCC Enforcement Bureau. The settlement states that these devices emit radio frequency radiation that’s out of compliance with the FCC’s technical requirements and could interfere with authorized communications.

Asus RT-AC87U Michael Homnick

Operating a higher frequencies than allowed by law would have given Asus’s products a clearly unfair advantage. Unfortunately, the FCC settlement does not identify exactly which Asus routers were out of compliance. 

In addition to paying the substantial fine, Asus entered into a consent decree with the FCC that terminates the agency’s investigation, but requires Asus to “implement a compliance plan that will extend for more than three years to ensure future compliance with the Commission’s equipment marketing rules.”

The story behind the story: While these two settlements became a matter of the public record back in August, they were not widely publicized then or since. My occasional searches for variations on “Netgear Asus lawsuit” since then surfaced only the earliest stories about the original case, including my own. Armed with the additional information about the $240,000 settlement with the FCC today, a search netted this mention of the case in a law-firm’s blog—and that’s about it.

So why is this news today? At the risk of blaming the victim, it’s because Netgear wants to poke a stick in Asus’s eye. I’m guessing their settlement back in August included some kind of gag agreement that has just expired. That, however, is pure speculation on my part. I’ve asked my Netgear contact why they decided to bring this to my attention now and will update this story when and if I hear back from them.

I also reached out to my contact at Asus for comment, but received an auto reply that he is traveling on business until March 13. Again, I’ll update this story if and when he responds. But the bottom line is that Asus has admitted to violating FCC rules and regulations. They misled reviewers and they misled consumers. On the other hand, they were caught, they’ve admitted to wrongoing, and they’ve paid a fine. Whatever damage to their reputation these shenanigans have done remains to be seen.

I just wish this had come to light earlier and that my source wasn’t one of Asus’s biggest competitors.

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