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BT fined £800,000 over failure to cater for speech and hearing impaired customers

BT has been fined almost £1 million after being found guilty of failing to provide an adequate service for individuals with hearing and speech difficulties.

Ofcom confirmed the £800,000 charge this morning, after BT had failed to meet the regulator’s deadline to improve its text-to-voice service.

Read more: Ofcom announces new regulations to BT’s super-fast broadband

Back in October 2012, Ofcom told all UK mobile and landline providers to launch a “Next Generation Text” system by 18 April 2014, but BT’s service was not ready until September due to a number of technical issues. The telecoms regulator admitted that the delay caused little financial harm to the consumer, but was still critical of the UK company.

“Providing an improved text relay service is an important requirement designed to ensure that people with hearing or speech impairments have equivalent access to phone services,” Ofcom explained online. “BT had 18 months to meet that requirement and did not do so for five months after the deadline for complying.”

Despite the fine, Ofcom’s consumer and content group director Claudio Pollack did welcome the fact that BT’s service is now operating fully and added that the company’s investment in order to get the service up and running had been “significant.”

According to the Register, a BT spokesman confirmed that the delay was necessary due to a safety risk regarding the quality of emergency calls.

“We fixed the issue as quickly as possible, and after fully testing the service, launched it at the beginning of October 2014. The service has been warmly welcomed by users,” BT explained. “Hearing and speech impaired people can now make faster, more fluent phone calls using ordinary smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs, as well as existing specialised terminals.”

Read more: Ofcom to review UK’s digital communications market

Ofcom, the UK’s communication regulator is tasked with overseeing the country’s television, radio, postal and telecoms industries. The full breakdown of the investigation into BT’s text-to-voice service can be found here.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.