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Ofcom hits BT with £800K fine over next-gen text service delay

Communications watchdog Ofcom has fined BT £800,000 for delays to a new text-to-voice service which would benefit hearing or speech impaired users.

Back in October 2012, Ofcom instructed all landline and mobile providers to roll out a service which would allow users to type in text and have it read aloud during the course of a telephone conversation by call centre staff. Staff should also convert spoken interactions into text as appropriate.

BT failed to hit the regulator’s April 2014 deadline for rolling out its “Next Generation Text Service” though, due to technical difficulties surrounding audio quality with emergency calls. Instead the service was launched on September 24th 2014, some five months late.

The late rollout prompted Ofcom to carry out an investigation which found that, while the delay was a one-off, the carrier had sufficient advanced notice to hit the target given. As a result, the hefty fine was imposed.

Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director, Claudio Pollack, said: “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.

“However, BT has invested significantly in launching the new text relay service, which allows users to have conversations more easily and fluently and on new devices. We welcome the fact the service is now operating successfully.”

BT apologised for delays to the service, with a spokesperson stating: “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.”

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