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FCC proposes penalty against Verizon for telecom accessibility rule violation

The Enforcement Bureau released a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture proposing a $100,000 fine against Verizon for its apparent failure to comply with the FCC’s request for documents. The request stemmed from a Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“CVAA”) informal consumer complaint, which alleged that that the complainant owned a Samsung Galaxy S-10 5G phone, had subscribed to Verizon’s Premium Visual Voicemail service to read the voicemails on his phone, and that this service was not accessible to him, in violation of section 255 of the Communication’s Act and Part 7 of the FCC’s rules.

The FCC served the complaint on Verizon on December 17, 2021 with its request for information. Verizon provided an answer and supplement in January 2022 that claimed the service was accessible and that if the service was not accessible to the consumer, then it could not be made accessible without the consumer’s cooperation. Verizon did not include the FCC-requested detailed description of any issues that may have impacted the ability of persons with disabilities to use Verizon’s Visual Voicemail, any description or supporting documentation of actions that Verizon took to resolve these issues, or any documentation or designs showing Verizon’s due diligence in ensuring the service was accessible to individuals with disabilities. Further, the FCC discovered through independent investigation that Verizon’s own message boards had several complaints from consumers reporting problems with the Premium Visual Voicemail service, yet Verizon only disclosed to the FCC complaints made to Verizon’s customer service department that were escalated for further review.

The FCC sent a Letter of Inquiry (“LOI”) on February 2, 2022, again asking for information and documentation regarding Verizon’s Premium Visual Voicemail service to help resolve the complaint. Verizon “not only did not submit the information that was missing from Verizon’s Answer but was also selective in the information that it provided.” Accordingly, the Bureau recommended a $100,000 forfeiture, finding that Verizon had willfully and repeatedly failed to comply with FCC requests for information in violation of section 503(b)(1)(B) of the Act, failed to comply with the statutorily imposed record keeping rules regarding its accessibility efforts, and failed to conduct due diligence in exploring accessibility and achievability of its Premium Visual Voicemail service. The Bureau concluded that a base forfeiture of $75,000 was appropriate, but included an upward adjustment of $25,000 for Verizon’s willful decision not to provide the Bureau with all information it required. TLP

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