HLAA, along with several other consumer groups, have banded together in opposition of the proposed elimination of the requirement that wireless carriers file annual reports on hearing aid compatible handsets. The wireless industry argues that the requirements are no longer necessary because information about hearing aid compatible (HAC) phones is available on their websites and in stores that sell HAC phones and thus they are meeting or exceeding the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) requirements for the number of HAC phones they must carry.
In a joint filing, HLAA, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc., the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network, the National Association of the Deaf, and the Gallaudet University Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology RERC said, “Consumer Groups and the Gallaudet RERC find the current reporting requirements for non-Tier 1 service providers to be both useful and necessary. We believe reporting requirements should stay in place. However, we would not be opposed to working with the Commission and industry to modify existing requirements to make the reporting less burdensome for all Service Providers.”
In our filing, we said that consumers do turn to carrier websites and in-store sampling for information about HAC phones, however we “are not confident either method will result in finding accurate information.” A survey that HLAA conducted last month of the websites of 10 non-Tier 1 carriers found sites “rife with inaccurate, outdated and insufficient information.” The findings mirror “our past experience in reviewing websites for HAC phones,” the filing said.
“We are concerned that the lack of attention by these non-Tier 1 service providers to their websites may not be a matter of the amount of time and resources to do so, but because of a lack of motivation: if they inaccurately report to the Commission on compliance with the HAC standards, they could face enforcement actions; however, if they do not fulfill their obligations to ensure their websites have accurate and up to date information, there appear to be no negative repercussions,” the groups noted.
We also made it clear that we have found that consumers don’t file complaints with the FCC when they find it difficult to get HAC information. If websites are not providing accurate information, the only source of solid information about HAC phones are the filings made by the industry with the FCC. HLAA and the consumer groups believe reports should continue to be required until we reach the time that 100% of phones are required to be HAC.
The FCC will be reviewing all comments filed in the docket and will come up with a determination in the coming months.