Buyer beware | ACMA

Buyer beware

Video: Buying a radio communications device online? It may seem cheap but what’s it really going to cost? 

Shopping online?

Do you shop online for any radiocommunications products? Make sure you remember to stop, think and question before you buy. It’s likely that what you’re looking for will be subject to the requirements of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act).

Radiocommunications products include anything that communicates wirelessly, such as:

  • cordless phones
  • broadband modems and routers with mobile and/or WiFi connectivity
  • microphones
  • handheld two-way radios
  • CB radios
  • marine radios
  • aviation radios
  • radio-controlled (RC) models including aircraft, vehicles and vessels
  • baby monitors.

As a consumer, taking some simple steps before buying a radiocommunications product will help to ensure it operates on the correct frequencies and doesn’t cause interference.

Stop and think

Before going through the steps to buy a radiocommunications product—stop and think!

What do you actually know about the product?

  • Have you conducted any research about whether it can be used in Australia? Seeking other information to that provided by the seller may alert you to potential issues with the product. In addition to any online searches conducted, visit the ACMA website, which has detailed information on many devices, including high-risk items like mobile phone and GPS jammers, illegal mobile phone repeaters and mobile phone boosters.
  • Is the price far cheaper than known reputable brands? This may be a sign that the product has not undergone the required device testing to ensure it complies with Australian technical standards.

Who do you want to buy the product from?

  • Can you identify where the seller is located? Devices made for overseas markets may use the incorrect frequency in Australia and interfere with important services.
  • Does the seller look reputable? Only buy from websites that you know and trust. Check recommendations and feedback from other customers.


Are you confident about the information you’ve been given?

If you’re unsure if the device can be lawfully used, ask the seller if it meets Australian regulatory requirements and if it can be used in Australia. Be wary if the seller does not adequately address your questions or concerns.

Are you still unsure?

You’ve thought long and hard about buying the product and even asked the seller if it’s legal, but you’re still unsure. Ultimately, it’s your decision whether or not to buy the product. But before you enter those credit card details, think about the potential consequences:

You could block or disrupt important communications systems.

  • The consequences of operating a device that doesn’t comply with Australian requirements can be serious. If the device operates on the same frequencies as those used for emergency services, there is a risk it could substantially disrupt or block these vital communications systems.
  • The ACMA has encountered devices operating on the same frequencies as those used for mobile phone services in Australia. The resulting interference could prevent someone calling Triple Zero (000) during an emergency.
  • Radiofrequencies are also used to support a number of everyday services that all Australians enjoy, such as watching television or listening to the radio. If you operate a device on these frequencies, you could cause problems for you and your neighbours.

You could receive a visit from ACMA inspectors.

  • ACMA inspectors investigate and locate the source of interference to licensed radiocommunications services. Their enquiries might lead to your doorstep.
  • The ACMA adopts a graduated approach to compliance and enforcement and will respond to the circumstances of the case being investigated. However, there are various offences under the Act that could apply to the unlawful operation or possession of a radiocommunications device.
  • The consequences can include a court-imposed penalty of over $25,200 (120 penalty units) for a person making a radio emission from a non-standard transmitter or up to two years imprisonment for a person operating an unlicensed radiocommunications device (sections 157 and 46 of the Act).

Your hip pocket could be lighter.

  • A device that doesn’t meet Australian technical requirements may not work here or you may be instructed by an ACMA inspector to stop using it. If the product was sold by an overseas seller, you may be unable to recover your money through the protections offered by Australian consumer law.

So, be an informed consumer. Don’t forget to stop, think and question before buying your next radiocommunications product.

The laws administered by the ACMA seek to ensure that radiocommunications products supplied in Australia operate on the correct frequencies, meet electromagnetic energy (EME) emission limits for public health safety, and meet the electromagnetic capability (EMC) requirements so that other devices are not unintentionally interfered with.

The ACMA does not regulate product safety (injury, illness and death caused by unsafe goods). Information on electrical safety matters is available from state and territory energy regulators. More advice on product safety is available from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Product Safety website.

Download our handy fact sheet Shopping online & overseas—A guide for consumers buying radiocommunications products (PDF, Word).

Last updated: 10 February 2019