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BT fined £800k over lax emergency text relay delay blunder

Ofcom plays world's smallest violin to telco's sound quality excuse

Britain's communications watchdog has fined one-time national telco BT £800,000 for failing to provide a revamped text-to-voice service for customers who have hearing and speech impairments.

Ofcom said this morning that the company missed the regulator-imposed deadline – 18 April 2014 – to improve its text relay service.

BT's Next Generation Text system was not deployed until 24 September last year due to apparent tech gremlins with the sound quality of emergency calls.

According to Ofcom, which opened its probe in June 2014, the "financial harm to consumers was limited." Yet the watchdog slammed BT for failing to sort out its technical problems sooner, given that it had 18 months to do so before the deadline kicked in.

"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," said Ofcom consumer director Claudio Pollack.

A BT spokesman told The Register:

We’re sorry we had to postpone the full launch of the Next Generation Text service. This was because of a safety issue with the quality of emergency calls that could have put users at risk.

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.

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.


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