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March 18, 2015

BT fined £800,000 for delaying service for hearing impaired

Failed to meet Ofcom deadline of 18 April 2014.

By CBR Staff Writer

UK telecom regulator Ofcom has levied a fine of £800,000 at BT for failing to provide ‘Next Generation Text Service’ to its customers with hearing or speech impairments.

In 2012, Ofcom gave all British landline and mobile phone operators a deadline of 18 April 2014 to create a tool that would allow the user to type the message they wanted to convey through a call centre operator. This would then allow users to read spoken replies, thus facilitating conversation for people with special needs.

However, BT missed the deadline claiming it faced technical problems with sound quality of emergency calls, before eventually launched the service in September last year.

Ofcom opened an investigation in June last year to find out the reason for the delay in launching the service, with the watchdog acknowledging the emergency calls problem.

Ofcom determined that the level of financial harm to consumers caused by the delay was limited.

Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group director Claudio Pollack said: "The size of the penalty imposed on BT reflects the importance of providing an improved text relay service to its customers with hearing and speech impairments.

"However, BT has invested significantly in launching the new text relay service, which allows users to have conversations more easily and fluently and on new devices. We welcome the fact the service is now operating successfully."

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However, the watchdog went on to impose the fine because BT could not provide the service on time.

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