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January 7, 2013
Enforcement Advisory No. 2013-01
HEARING aID COMPATIBILITY FOR WIRELESS TELEPHONES
WIRELESS SERVICE PROVIDERS ADVISED TO REVIEW COMPLIANCE WITH HEARING AID
COMPATIBILITY RULES AND ENSURE ACCURATE REPORTING
Annual Compliance Filing for Service Providers Due January 15, 2013
The Enforcement Bureau reminds wireless service providers, including
resellers, of their obligation to report on compliance with the hearing
aid compatibility rules on or before January 15, 2013. The hearing aid
compatibility rules ensure that individuals with hearing loss can fully
access advanced wireless phone services without excessive feedback or
As part of the Commission's longstanding commitment to ensuring that
people who use hearing aids and cochlear implants have continuing access
to advanced technologies as they develop, the Bureau will continue to take
action against companies that violate the hearing aid compatibility rules.
Last year, the Enforcement Bureau proposed nearly $1.4 million in monetary
penalties for violations of the hearing aid-compatible handset deployment
requirements and negotiated consent decrees with voluntary contributions
totaling more than $725,000. As we have previously noted, the Bureau's
heightened enforcement posture recognizes that the hearing aid
compatibility rules have been in place (in one form or another) for almost
a decade and that service providers should now have implemented robust
programs to ensure compliance with these important rules.
What do the hearing aid compatibility rules require? FCC rules require
most wireless service providers to offer a minimum number of hearing
aid-compatible handsets, making their products accessible to consumers
with hearing loss. To ensure that consumers have access to up-to-date
information on the availability of those handsets and that the Commission
can monitor compliance, FCC rules also require service providers to make
periodic status reports and to post specific information on their public
websites. The status reports and web content provide valuable information
to the public concerning the technical testing and commercial availability
of hearing aid-compatible handsets.
We again remind service providers (i) that a company's failure to
familiarize itself with the relevant law does not excuse noncompliance;
and (ii) that there is no de minimis exception to the wireless hearing aid
compatibility reporting requirement.
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. Service providers (and manufacturers) are obligated to
accurately report their handset offerings in their annual hearing aid
compatibility status reports.
We note that in some instances service providers have mistakenly reported
only those hearing aid-compatible handsets that were "sold" to consumers
during the reporting period instead of all compatible handsets "offered,"
as contemplated by the rules. The Bureau also 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 or service provider reports may then be replicated
by other entities, creating a daisy chain of non-compliance. The FCC's
Equipment Authorization System is the most reliable source for information
on a handset's hearing aid compatibility rating, and the Enforcement
Bureau urges all filers to review their hearing aid compatibility service
reports carefully before submission to ensure their accuracy. Service
providers that have already filed their hearing aid compatibility status
report for 2013 should review their filings for accuracy and completeness
and timely amend their filings as necessary to correct any errors. We will
consider taking additional enforcement actions in this area if this
What happens if manufacturers or service providers do not comply with the
rules? Manufacturers and service providers should promptly review their
compliance with the hearing aid compatibility rules, as we intend to
strictly enforce them.
* 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.
In addition, these base forfeiture amounts are subject to adjustment based
on aggravating or mitigating factors. The Communications Act and
Commission rules authorize forfeitures against a common carrier of up to
$150,000 for each violation, or for each day of a continuing violation, up
to a maximum of $1,500,000 for a single act or failure to act.
Need more information? To file a hearing aid compatibility status report,
visit http://wireless.fcc.gov/hac. For additional information regarding
compliance with and 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 the wireless hearing aid compatibility rules, contact Michael Rowan,
(202) 418-1883, Michael.Rowan@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
firstname.lastname@example.org 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: Chief, Enforcement Bureau
The filing deadline for these reports is January 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 Hearing Aid Compatibility Status Reporting at
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 wireless
service providers, including resellers and Mobile Virtual Network
Operators, are required to offer specified numbers or percentages of
handsets per air interface that comply with the relevant standard.
Service providers 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)). Although these entities are exempt from most of the hearing aid
compatibility deployment requirements in 47 C.F.R. S: 20.19, they must
still comply with the reporting requirement in 47 C.F.R. S: 20.19(i).
Effective September 10, 2012, the de minimis exception is unavailable to
service providers 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).
See id. S: 20.19(i)(3)(i) ("Reports filed by service providers must
include: (i) [c]ompliant handset models offered to customers since the
most recent report . . . .").
The Equipment Authorization System is an electronic database of all
equipment certified under FCC 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 http://transition.fcc.gov/oet/ea/fccid/.
See T-Mobile USA, Inc., Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, 27
FCC Rcd 4405, 4415, paras. 22-23 (2012).
See 47 U.S.C. S: 503(b)(2)(B); 47 C.F.R. S: 1.80(b)(3).
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FCC ENFORCEMENT ADVISORY
* Wireless service providers must file required Hearing Aid
Compatibility Status Reports by January 15, 2013.
* The Bureau has observed that hearing aid compatibility status reports
filed by service providers (and manufacturers) often contain numerous
errors. Given the upcoming reporting deadline, we urge service
providers to exercise due 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
* We emphasize (i) that a company's failure to familiarize itself with
the relevant law does not excuse noncompliance; and (ii) that there is
no de minimis exception to the wireless hearing aid compatibility
* Service providers that have already filed their hearing aid
compatibility status reports for 2013 should review such filings for
accuracy and completeness and timely amend their filings as necessary
to correct any errors.
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500