The following email was recently received by the QRZ editors
and I thought that it made some good food for thought. I
have removed the names to prevent mayhem. -fred
Date: Tuesday, May 08, 2001 12:48 PM
Subject: I'D LIKE TO E-MAIL RILEY HOLLINGSWORTH
There is some concern out here about a fellow who owns and
operates a website where he sells used radios and other
The problem is that while all of the various swap net operators
set policy to exclude "dealers" from buying/selling on the air,
a few have told me it is not within their capability to actually
exclude any ham from listing on a net that they are running who
appears to be in the radio business.
One net control Op told me that if i wanted to accuse him of
being a "dealer," that i would have to go to the FCC to
complain. The net operator indicated that it wasn't his
responsibility to deny anybody the privilege of listing
equipment over the air, regardless of what evidence of them
being a "dealer" is revealed.
So, after speaking with senior west coast swap net guru about
the situation, I have decided to ask Riley Hollingsworth to
check out my allegations. I think there is plenty of room for
dealers and plenty of room for swap nets. However, when a full
scale business masquerades as a private individual on the swap
nets, it will eventually ruin the privilege for everybody.
I say that its better to have Riley look into it now and let the
FCC decide. I know the FCC is not very happy with a lot of
folks who regularly list on the swap nets, but in this guy's
case, I feel that he has clearly crossed over the boundary
between private and commercial sales.
I don't know what goes on in the rest of the country, but the
swap nets that I can hear out here in west are fairly righteous
and I think we should try to keep it that way.
A QRZ User
QRZ's senior editor, Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ responds:
As you know, the rules specifically prohibit commercial
activities on the air. I think the fellow who said that there
was no way to determine if a legitimate sounding ad was indeed
commercial was right - it can be difficult.
It's not impossible, however, and if the evidence shows that
someone is actually in business (profitable or not) selling
amateur equipment, then they may not facilitate any part of the
advertising or the sale over the air.
It can be hard to prove that someone is "in business" if they
have no business license, no store front, no business cards, and
no business name. Obviously, on-air swap meets are legal and
most folks like them. Some guys might have a lot more equipment
than would seem reasonable but there's no law against it. Just
because someone has a lot of unnecessary gear doesn't
automatically put them into a commercial category.
I used to buy and sell a lot of stuff and at times had a pretty
big collection of junk. Some local hams thought that I was
"commercial" but I wasn't. I was just an avid trader. I never
conducted myself as a business, but I didn't hide the fact that I
sometimes profited on some of the things that I bought, sold and
I was insulted when people would call me "commercial" and I
ignored every one of them who thought that I was. I saw many of
them as jealous because I was a better horse trader than they
were. Some accused me of buying up all of the cheap gear at swap
meets and in doing so denying less fortunate hams the opportunity
to get into the hobby. You can guess how I replied to that....
I don't know the individual that you're talking about but I would
suggest that you make a concrete determination as to whether he's
in business or is simply a prolific horse trader. You might not
like those of us who trade for fun (and sometimes a little
profit), but I think that you'll have to agree that it doesn't
fit the general description of a business unless it meets the
more rigid criteria of having some sort of commercial presence.
I suppose one could ask "Are swap nets legal or not?". If the
answer is YES then I have to remind you that there is no mention
in the regulations regarding how many radios a person may trade
or posess at a given time. Therein lies the predicament and the
slippery slope. Granted, some guys may abuse this however over
time their reputation tends to regulate their activities.
Before I called the FCC (and I might if it were a legitimate
business), I'd have to be completely convinced
that the guy was crossing
the line between business and hobby. I'd look for a business
name, business cards, a store front, a web page, advertising,
etc.. If all of these came up blank then I'd probably forget
about it. I have seen the web page that you mentioned
but it still didn't make it clear that it was a
commercial enterprise. It didn't mention a business name, a
store front, or even how to place an order. Just having
a web page, even a domain name, doesn't necessarily prove
After all, it is a hobby. No reputable business is going to get
away with selling on the air and for this reason, I'd tend to
want to give the benefit of the doubt to the seller. This kind
of stuff has been going on for 50 years now and so far it hasn't
wrecked the hobby. For many, it's made it more fun.