Bargain modems - if they're up to scratch

Bargain modems - if they're up to scratch

In the face of increasing demand for access to the Internet and downward price pressure for modems, retailers need to ensure a bargain product is indeed a bargain.

According to Paul Zrna, research and development manager at modem vendor Netcomm, retailers can be exposed to problems from low-quality modems that fail to meet Australian standards. And if a non-compliant modem comes on to the market, regulatory body the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) wants to know about it.

While the legislation is targeted at the manufacturer or importer, retailers who even unknowingly supply such products can find themselves dealing with returns if a product is subsequently recalled.

Zrna said he is regularly seeing suspect products come onto the market, and will buy a competitor's product to have it tested by an independent lab. This was the case with a modem advertised in a reseller catalogue recently.

Although the modem carried the A-Tick sticker, it was found to be non-compliant. `Resellers need to carefully consider the source of these products, and ensure they are dealing with a reputable supplier,' Zrna warned.

For this retailer, the product has now been withdrawn and is being exchanged for an alternative brand. And with this latest case having been brought to the attention of the ACA, the importer or manufacturer faces investigation and possible prosecution.

According to a spokesperson from the compliance team of the ACA, modem suppliers must ensure products conform to Australian standards, and are required to have a compliance folder for each product. He described the adherence to the standards as self-regulating. `While we carry out audits of the compliance records, we rely on competitors for information,' he admitted.

So for the supplier of two specific 56Kbps modems (one external and one PCMCIA card), the ACA is preparing a brief for the public prosecutor. `They think we don't do anything, but where there are blatant transgressions like this, we will take action,' the ACA spokesperson said. For at least one retailer, the headaches continue.

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