Ofcom hits BT with £800k fine over text-to-speech service

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BT failed to hit deadline for improved text-to-voice service for customers with hearing or speech impairments

Ofcom has hit BT with an £800,000 fine after the broadband giant failed to improve its text-to-voice services between April and September last year.

The regulator fined the broadband and fixed line provider after BT failed to adopt the “Next Generation Text Service”, which helps customers with hearing or speech impairments, by the April 18 deadline.

In October 2012, Ofcom had ordered all UK landline and mobile providers to launch a service aimed at giving users more natural conversations using speech as well as text. It is accessible on devices including PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Ofcom first opened its investigation in to why the service was not available back in June, with BT claiming it was a one-off incident citing technical problems with the sound quality of emergency calls.

Ofcom 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 eventually launched its service on September 24, more than five months after the initial deadline. It will now be required to pay £800,000 to the regulator which will be passed on to the Treasury.

A spokesperson for BT said: “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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