BETHESDA, MARYLAND – The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), along with several other consumer groups, have announced their opposition to a proposal calling for the elimination of the requirement that wireless carriers file annual reports on hearing aid compatible handsets to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
According to the wireless industry, the reporting requirements are no longer needed because information about hearing aid compatible (HAC) phones is widely available on company websites and in stores that sell mobile phones. Therefore, the industry believes they are meeting or exceeding the existing FCC requirements for the number of HAC phones they must carry.
HLAA and Consumer Groups Express Concerns
Together 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.”
While HLAA and its allies acknowledged that consumers go to wireless carrier websites and in-store for information about HAC phones, they expressed a lack of confidence in the accuracy of provided information. This sentiment was supported by a survey that HLAA conducted in November, examining the websites of 10 non-Tier 1 carriers. The results found sites “rife with inaccurate, outdated and insufficient information.”
“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 appears to be no negative repercussions,” said the group in their filing.
The groups also made it clear that often consumers are not filing complaints with the FCC when they encounter difficulty getting HAC information. HLAA, and the others, believe reports should continue to be required until all phones are required to be HAC.
The FCC is said to be reviewing all comments and will make a determination in coming months.