British Telecom (BT) has been handed an £800,000 fine from media regulator Ofcom for failing to offer adequate services for hearing-impaired customers for five months.
The fine relates to BT’s failure to bring in its Next Generation text relay system from between April and September 2014. The system translates voice-to-text on various devices, including PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. It aims to help users have more natural conversations using speech and text.
Last June, Ofcom began an investigation into why the new system had not been launched on the required date. The regulator acknowledged that the delay was a one-off, caused by problems with the sound quality of emergency calls, and had not caused financial harm to customers.
However, Ofcom said it also regards the implementation of services for those who are hearing impaired as an important responsibility. Announcing the decision, the watchdog pointed out that BT had been given 18 months to bring in the service, but had missed the deadline by five months.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer and content group director, commented: “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.”