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FCC Issues Notice of Apparent Liability of Forfeiture to T-Mobile

04.18.12 – The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability For Forfeiture proposing a forfeiture of $819,000 against T-Mobile for violating the FCC’s rules for hearing aid compatible mobile handsets [47 CFR §20.19 (c)(2)(d)(2)]. In 2003, the FCC adopted rules to establish standards to enable interoperability between hearing aids and digital mobile phones.  In 2008, the FCC employed a timeline by which service providers and manufacturers must provide consumers with a certain number of hearing aid compatible devices according to the provider’s size and number of subscribers.  According to the FCC, a review of T-Mobile’s 2009 hearing aid compatibility status report by both the Enforcement Bureau and FCC Office of Engineering and Technology Equipment Authorization System, revealed that T-Mobile had failed to comply with Sections 20.19(c)(2) and 20.19(d)(2) of the rules by providing an inadequate amount of hearing aid compatible devices.  Following a letter of inquiry concerning these violations, T-Mobile also disclosed possible violations during 2010, causing the FCC to expand their investigation.  The investigation revealed that although during 2009 T-Mobile was required to provide between 4 to 9 M3-rated devices and 3 to 5 T3-rated devices the provider fell short by 1 to 3 M3-rated devices and up to 4 T3-rated devices each month. For 2010, T-Mobile was required to provide either 9 or 10 M3-rated devices and 5 to 7 T3-rated devices, but fell short by as many as 4 M3-rated devices and 3 T3-rated devices.  According to the Notice, T-Mobile relied on manufacturers’ hearing aid compatibility rating information, which is permissible by the FCC’s rules; however, the FCC notes that this reliance was not acceptable since many of the manufacturers’ specifications were incomplete.  Thus, in accordance with the Section 503(b)(1)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended), the FCC determined that T-Mobile was liable for a forfeiture for  willfully and repeatedly failing to provide hearing aid compatible devices. [Source: FCC]

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