Own-initiative investigation into compliance with General Condition 15 and the provision of next generation text relay services

CW/01129/05/14

Title: Own-initiative investigation into compliance with General Condition 15 and the provision of next generation text relay services
Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation into Bri tish Telecommunications plc's ("BT") provision of text relay services in accordance with General Condition 15 ("GC 15") by 18 April 2014.
Investigation against: British Telecommunications plc ("BT")
Case opened: 24 June 2014
Case closed: 17 March 2015
Issue: Whether BT has complied with its obligations under General Condition 15 of the General Conditions of Entitlement
Relevant Instrument: General Condition 15 (specifically 15.3 and 15.5).

Update note: 21 May 2015

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision issued to BT, on 16 March 2015, has now been prepared and can be found under the related items

End of update note

Update note: 17 March 2015

Following an investigation into BT, Ofcom issued it with a notification under s96A of the Communications Act 2003 (‘the Act) on 3 December 2014, as we had reasonable grounds to believe that from 18 April 2014 BT had contravened GCs 15.3 and 15.5 by failing to provide its customers with a next generation text relay (NGTR) service in accordance with the requirements of GC 15.5 (see entry below).

BT provided written representations to Ofcom on 9 January 2015, and made oral representations to Ofcom on 20 January 2015, in relation to the matters set out in the Notification. Ofcom also wrote to BT on 27 January 2015 requesting further clarification on a number of issues. BT responded on 5 and 17 February 2015. Having considered those representations (together with the other evidence collected from BT throughout the investigation), Ofcom is satisfied that, between 18 April 2014 and 24 September 2014, BT contravened GCs 15.3 and 15.5 by failing to provide a NGTR service to its customers in accordance with the requirements of GC 15.5.
Therefore, on 17 March 2015, Ofcom issued BT with a Confirmation Decision under section 96C of the Act and imposed on it a financial penalty of £800,000.
BT should take the steps to which it committed in its written and oral representations to remedy the consequences of the contravention:

  1. provide the NGTR helpdesk and support facilities for the NGTR service;
  2. make and publish on the NGTR website instructional videos for using the NGTR service;
  3. hold the proposed “Train the Trainer” events on the accessing and use of the NGTR service; and
  4. provide for distribution to end-users, by organisations represented on the NGTR Steering Board, of 500 tablet devices to be used to access the NGTR service by those users.

Additionally, BT has committed to playing its part to deliver a mobile-compatible version of its NGT Lite application for Braille reading equipment users.

A non-confidential version of the Confirmation Decision is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

Update note: 4 December 2014

Following an investigation, Ofcom has determined that there are reasonable grounds for believing that BT has contravened GCs 15.3 and 15.5. Ofcom has therefore issued a Notification to BT under section 96A of the Communications Act 2003.

The contravention relates to BT’s failure from 18 April 2014 to provide a NGTR service in accordance with the requirements of GC 15.5. BT now has an opportunity to make representations to Ofcom on the matters contained in the Notification.

End of update note

Text published when case was opened

Ofcom has opened this investigation into BT's provision of text relay services in accordance with General Condition 15.

GC 15.3 requires communications providers, such as BT, to ensure that such of its subscribers who, because of their disabilities, need to make calls in which some or all of the call is made or received in text format, are able to access a Relay Service.

GC 15.5 provides that by no later than 18 April 2014 a Relay Service provided by the communications provider to its subscribers pursuant to paragraph 15.3 must meet a series of criteria. In Ofcom's statement of 17 October 2012, we explained that, taken together, these criteria help secure equivalence of access for disabled end-users as required by the Universal Service Directive. We referred to this relay service as a Next Generation Text Relay service (NGTR). General Condition 15.5(k) requires such an NGTR service to be approved by Ofcom.

On 6 March 2014, following consultation, Ofcom approved BT's proposed NGTR service. As at today's date (25 June 2014), BT's approved NGTR service has not been launched. Having regard to our Administrative Priorities set out in our Enforcement Guidelines, we have opened an investigation into BT in respect of its compliance with GC15.

Ofcom's investigation will consider what action, if any, Ofcom should take in respect of BT's performance of its obligations to its subscribers under GC15.

Case Leader: Ian Vaughan (email: ian.vaughan@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/01129/05/14