T-Mobile has responded to the FCC’s notice. Here’s what they had to say:
T-Mobile USA is committed to providing high-quality products and services to all of its customers, including a broad selection of handsets that are hearing aid compatible. T-Mobile takes seriously its obligations to comply with its hearing aid compatibility responsibilities as part of our overall commitment to the accessibility needs of our customers.
The Federal Communications Commission has issued a notice to T-Mobile that it is liable for forfeiture in the amount of $819,000 for failing to meet requirements concerning the number of hearing aid compatible (HAC) handsets carriers are required to offer. The FCC claims that T-Mobile “willfully and repeatedly violated” the rules in 2009-2010.
The problem stems from the FCC’s 2003 Hearing Aid Compatibility Order, which was intended to ensure that people who relied on hearing aids would have a reasonable range of options for wireless phones. As part of the rule, so-called “Tier I carriers” were required to offer at least 8 handsets that were compatible with acoustic coupling technology, and three that were compatible with inductive coupling, by February 14, 2009. By February 14, 2010, the carriers were required to have 9 acoustic coupling handset models and 5 inductive coupling models. By the end of 2010, those numbers increased to 10 and 7.
T-Mobile, the FCC alleges, did not meet those requirements on time. As such, T-Mobile is liable for a forfeiture of $819,000. According to the notice, the company has thirty days to either submit payment or a written reply asking for the forfeiture to be reduced or cancelled altogether. In order to get the fine reduced or cancelled, however, T-Mobile will likely have to prove that they were not, in fact, in violation of the FCC’s rules during the two-year period specified. That could prove rather difficult, considering that it was T-Mobile’s own compliance reports in early 2010 that prompted the FCC to take action in the first place.
The full notice can be found in PDF form here.
A request for comment from T-Mobile has not yet received a response.