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July 03, 2013
Enforcement Advisory No. 2013-5
HEARING aID COMPATIBILITY FOR WIRELESS TELEPHONES
WIRELESS HANDSET MANUFACTURERS ADVISED TO ENSURE ACCURATE REPORTING
OF WIRELESS HEARING AID COMPATIBILITY COMPLIANCE
Handset Manufacturers Must Make Annual Compliance Filing By July 15, 2013
The Enforcement Bureau reminds wireless handset manufacturers of their
obligation to report on compliance with the hearing aid compatibility
rules on or before July 15, 2013.^ The hearing aid compatibility rules
ensure that individuals with hearing loss can fully access advanced
wireless phone services without excessive feedback or noise.
As we have previously explained, the Bureau's heightened enforcement
posture recognizes that the hearing aid compatibility rules have been in
place for almost a decade and that manufacturers should now have
implemented robust programs to ensure compliance with these important
What do the hearing aid compatibility rules require of manufacturers?
Commission rules require most wireless handset manufacturers to offer a
minimum number of hearing aid-compatible handsets, making their products
accessible to consumers with hearing loss.^ Manufacturers that offer any
new handset model for a particular air interface^ during a calendar year
also must partially "refresh" their hearing aid-compatible handset
offerings to ensure that the handsets available to consumers with hearing
loss include the newest and most advanced technologies.^
To provide consumers with up-to-date information on the availability of
hearing aid-compatible handsets and enable the Commission to monitor
compliance, Commission rules also require manufacturers to file periodic
status reports and post specific information on their public websites.^
The status reports and web content offer valuable information to the
public concerning the technical testing and commercial availability of
hearing aid-compatible handsets.
As noted above, a manufacturer's failure to familiarize itself with these
requirements does not excuse noncompliance. Similarly, there is no de
minimis exception to the wireless hearing aid compatibility reporting
How important is accurate reporting? Inaccurate reports hamper the
Commission's ability to monitor the deployment of hearing aid-compatible
handsets and impede compliance with the hearing aid compatibility rules
themselves. Manufacturers (and service providers) are obligated to
accurately report their handset offerings in their annual hearing aid
compatibility status reports.^
The Bureau has found inaccuracies in the relevant hearing aid
compatibility handset rating, model name, and FCC ID, as well as the time
period during which such handsets were offered. Errors in manufacturer
reports may then be replicated by other entities, creating a daisy chain
of non-compliance. The Commission's Equipment Authorization System is the
most reliable source for information on a handset's hearing aid
compatibility rating,^ and the Bureau urges all filers to ensure that the
handset model rating reported in their hearing aid compatibility status
reports is consistent with the rating in the grant of equipment
authorization. Manufacturers that have already filed their 2013 hearing
aid compatibility status reports should review their filings for accuracy
and completeness and amend their filings as necessary to correct any
errors before the filing deadline. Errors that may be subsequently
discovered should be immediately reported to the Wireless
Telecommunications Bureau so the associated reports can be promptly
corrected. We will consider taking additional enforcement actions in this
area if this problem persists.
What happens if manufacturers or service providers do not comply with the
rules? We intend to strictly enforce the hearing aid compatibility rules,
and will impose escalating penalties on manufacturers that persist in
their failure to file the required reports or otherwise fail to comply
with these rules.
* Failure to comply with the digital wireless handset deployment
requirements may result in monetary forfeitures starting at $15,000
per violation. In 2012, the Commission revised its approach to the
assessment of base forfeitures for violations of the hearing
aid-compatible handset deployment requirements in order to more fully
reflect the significance of these violations and to better deter
future noncompliance. Specifically, the Commission began applying the
$15,000 base forfeiture to each failure to offer a hearing
aid-compatible handset during each month of the reporting year.^
* Failure to comply with the reporting and web site posting requirements
may result in monetary forfeitures starting at $6,000 per violation.
* These base forfeiture amounts are subject to adjustment based on
aggravating or mitigating factors. The Communications Act and
Commission rules authorize forfeitures against non-common carriers of
up to $16,000 for each violation, or for each day of a continuing
violation, up to a maximum of $112,500 for a single act or failure to
Need more information? To file a hearing aid compatibility status report,
visit http://wireless.fcc.gov/hac. For additional information regarding
enforcement of the wireless hearing aid compatibility rules, please
contact John D. Poutasse, (202) 418-2172, John.Poutasse@fcc.gov, or Pamera
Hairston, (202) 418-1165, Pamera.Hairston@fcc.gov of the Enforcement
Bureau. For general information on compliance with the wireless hearing
aid compatibility rules, contact Christina Clearwater, (202) 418-1893,
Christina.Clearwater@fcc.gov, or Eli Johnson, (202) 418-1395,
Eli.Johnson@fcc.gov of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.
To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities
(Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to
email@example.com or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at
202-418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY). You may also contact the
Enforcement Bureau on its TTY line at (202) 418-1148 for further
information about this Enforcement Advisory, or the FCC on its TTY line at
1-888-Tell-FCC (1-888-835-5322) for further information about the wireless
hearing aid compatibility rules.
Media inquiries should be directed to Mark Wigfield, (202) 418-0253, Mark
Issued by: Acting Chief, Enforcement Bureau
^ The filing deadline for these reports is July 15th each year. When the
15th of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, the report is due on the
next business day. See 47 C.F.R. S 1.4; see also Hearing Aid Compatibility
Status Reporting at http://wireless.fcc.gov/hac.
^ The full text of the wireless hearing aid compatibility rules is set
forth at 47 C.F.R. S 20.19. Among other things, these rules include
technical standards that digital wireless handsets must meet to be
considered compatible with hearing aids operating in acoustic coupling and
inductive coupling (telecoil) modes, and establish deadlines by which
manufacturers are required to offer specified numbers or percentages of
handsets per air interface that comply with the relevant standard.
^ The term "air interface" refers to the technical protocol, such as Code
Division Multiple Access (CDMA), that ensures compatibility between mobile
radio service equipment (e.g., wireless handsets) and the service
provider's base stations.
^ See, e.g., 47 C.F.R. S 20.19(c)(1)(ii) (requiring manufacturers to offer
a mix of new and existing models that comply with paragraph (b)(1) of this
section); Amendment of the Commission's Rules Governing Hearing
Aid-Compatible Mobile Handsets, Third Report and Order, 27 FCC Rcd 3732,
3733, para. 3 n.2 (2012).
^ ^ See 47 C.F.R. S 20.19(h), (i).
^ Manufacturers offering two or fewer digital wireless handset models per
air interface may qualify for the de minimis exception (47 C.F.R. S
20.19(e)) to the hearing aid-compatible handset deployment benchmarks, but
they must still comply with the reporting requirement in 47 C.F.R. S
20.19(i). Effective September 10, 2012, the de minimis deployment
exception is unavailable to manufacturers that do not meet the definition
of a "small entity" beginning two years after their initial offerings. See
id. S 20.19(e)(1)(ii); see also Amendment of the Commission's Rules
Governing Hearing Aid-Compatible Mobile Handsets, Policy Statement and
Second Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 25 FCC
Rcd 11167, 11180-89, paras. 35-59 (2010).
^ ^ See 47 C.F.R. S 20.19(i).
^ The Equipment Authorization System is an electronic database of all
equipment certified under Commission authority. The database identifies
the hearing aid compatibility rating of each handset by FCC ID, as
reported by the handset manufacturer in test reports submitted to the
Commission at the time of an equipment authorization or of any
modification to such authorization. See
^ See T-Mobile USA, Inc., Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, 27
FCC Rcd 4405, 4415, paras. 22-23 (2012); see also HTC Am., Inc.; HTC
Corp., Order and Consent Decree, 27 FCC Rcd 10819, 10823, para. 3 n.13
^ See 47 U.S.C. S 503(b)(2)(D); 47 C.F.R. S 1.80(b)(7).
Page 2 of 3
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FCC ENFORCEMENT ADVISORY
* Reporting Deadline: Wireless handset manufacturers must file required
hearing aid compatibility status reports by July 15, 2013.
* Inaccurate Reports: The Bureau has observed that hearing aid
compatibility status reports filed by manufacturers (and service
providers) often contain errors. Given the upcoming reporting
deadline, we urge manufacturers to exercise diligence in making the
representations required by the hearing aid compatibility rules. The
failure to do so undermines the ability of consumers to access
reliable information on the availability of hearing aid-compatible
handsets and confuses other market participants.
* Timely Corrections: Manufacturers that have already filed their 2013
hearing aid compatibility status reports should review such filings
for accuracy and completeness and amend their filings as necessary to
correct any errors before the filing deadline.
* No De Minimis Exception: We emphasize that (i) a manufacturer's
failure to familiarize itself with the relevant law does not excuse
noncompliance; and (ii) there is no de minimis exception to the
wireless hearing aid compatibility reporting requirement. All wireless
handset manufacturers must timely file hearing aid compatibility
status reports, regardless of the number of handset models they offer.
* Monetary Liability: Since 2011, the Commission has taken hearing aid
compatibility enforcement actions valued at more than $2.9 million,
including a proposed $12,000 monetary penalty for a manufacturer's
failure to timely file its 2012 hearing aid compatibility status
report. (See Kyocera Communications, Inc.; Kyocera Corp., DA 13-35).
Federal Communications Commission
445 12^th St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500