Twenty online retailers in 12 states must cease sales of illegally marketed signal-jamming devices or face significant fines, according to recent action taken by the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau.

Last week, the bureau issued an omnibus citation and order directing each of the 20 online retailers to stop marketing products such as cell-phone jammers, GPS jammers, Wi-Fi jammers and other jamming devices that can block or interfere with authorized radio communications — a violation of federal law and FCC rules.

“Our actions should send a strong message to retailers of signal jamming devices that we will not tolerate continued violations of federal law,” Michele Ellison, chief of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, said in a prepared statement. “Jamming devices pose significant risks to public safety and can have unintended and sometimes dangerous consequences for consumers and first responders.”

Retailers that do not comply with the FCC’s order could face monetary penalties of $16,000 to $112,500 for each jamming device or each day a jamming device is marketed, according to an FCC press release. Additional violations could result in equipment seizure and imprisonment.

“If they continue to offer jammers to consumers in the U.S., we will work closely with our law enforcement partners to prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” according to Ellison. “Consumers deserve no less.”

Because the retailers are not regulated by the FCC, federal law request the agency to first issue a citation that warns the entities of the violation before assessing penalties, according to the FCC press release.

While the FCC has taken action in an effort to halt the sale of jamming equipment before, there is “no question” that the recent citation is the largest action taken by the agency against the marketing of jammers, according to an FCC spokesman. However, the action should not have been a surprise to any of the retailers, he said.

“Back in February, we announced that we were increasing our efforts, and we put out a retailer advisory and a consumer advisory,” the FCC spokesman said during an interview. “So, we’ve been expressing our intention to [pursue] serious enforcement pretty much all year.”

In those February advisories, the FCC clarified that retailers selling jamming gear — not just customers operating the equipment — would be held liable for violations, the FCC spokesman said.

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