FCC Fines T-Mobile $819,000 For Selling Phones That Don’t Work With Hearing Aids

Let’s point out something very, very obvious: within reason, everyone should have the right to communicate over the phone, even if they live with some form of hearing loss. For that reason, the Federal Communications Commission requires mobile phone carriers to sell a certain number of handsets that work with hearing aids. The agency says that T-Mobile failed to do this, and has fined them $819,000.

How short did T-Mobile fall? This fine concerns the period from 2009 to 2010, because governments act in glacial time. There are two different ratings a phone can have, M-ratings and T-ratings; some phones have satisfactory ratings on both scales, and the main difference is that T-ratings are for hearing aids with telecoils, a device that helps wearers receive sound input from various electronic sources. Like phones.

The FCC requires carriers to sell a certain number of phones rated M3 or T3. (The scale goes up to M4 and T4.) During that period, T-Mobile was short 38 M3-rated devices and 14 T3-rated devices. In 2010, half of the phones a carrier offered or ten models (whichever is less) had to be rated M3, and the lesser of a third of phones offered or seven had to be rated T3.

The government and T-Mobile bickered over the amount, with T-Mobile arguing that the fine should be lessened for reasons ranging from problems getting compatible phones to market and their past as a “leader in the disabilities access arena.” The FCC ultimately denied their request, and imposed the fine yesterday.

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