Harpalani said Asus has since released new firmware for these routers that reduces their power output slightly. He added, however, that "it's difficult to make sure people download and install new firmware. Basically, the lawsuit has been filed, and a request for an FCC investigation has been filed. We'll wait for the agency to take action. They [Asus] are clearly breaking the law. Now it's left for the court to decide."
It will indeed be up to the FCC and the courts to decide whether any laws have been broken. Though wireless routers make use of unlicensed spectrum, the FCC is mandated by Congress to regulate exactly how that spectrum is used, and the FCC's rules are legally binding. Harpalani said the FCC has not yet responded to Netgear's complaint.
False advertising, unfair competition, conspiracy...
Netgear's lawsuit contends that Asus is knowingly engaging in false advertising by claiming that its RT-N65U and RT-AC66U comply with FCC regulations, and that if consumers knew of the models' noncompliance, a substantial number of router buyers would purchase Netgear's routers, instead. Netgear's suit also accuses Asus and QuieTek of engaging in a "conspiracy to unlawfully eliminate Asus's competitors in the wireless router market, including, but not limited to, Netgear."
"Our intention is to make sure they [Asus] stop shipping illegal routers, and we've requested damages and injunctive relief," said Harpalani.
Among other things, Netgear is asking a United States District Court to order Asus to stop shipping non-FCC-compliant routers to the U.S. market, recall any noncompliant wireless routers sold in the United States, pay Netgear restitution and damages for lost profits, and pay treble damages for false advertising.
I contacted Asus late last week in hopes of receiving a response from the company to Netgear's charges. But after receiving several promises that an official statement from the company's headquarters in Taiwan was forthcoming, I was informed this morning that Asus's official statement is "No comment while the case is in litigation."
In this situation, it's hard to know who to believe. Conspiring to submit false test results to the FCC would be an incredibly risky move for both Asus and QuieTek. Then again, cheating is one of the easiest ways to beat the competition. On the other hand, Asus has been shipping its RT-AC66U and the RT-N65U routers for more than a year now. If those models have been out of compliance with FCC regulations from the beginning, why is Netgear only now crying foul?
I won't venture to guess where the truth lies, but I will predict that if the FCC finds Netgear's complaint to be valid, Asus is in for a world of hurt. Conversely, if the FCC dismisses the complaint, Netgear's lawsuit will go up in smoke--and Asus will very likely hit back with a colossal lawsuit of it own.
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