On November 25, 2009, the Spectrum Enforcement Division (“SED”) of the Enforcement Bureau (“Bureau”) released a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (“NAL”) against Smith Bagley, Inc. (“SBI”), a Tier III wireless carrier, for apparently failing either to offer consumers at least eight digital wireless handset models that meet the FCC’s radio frequency interference standards for hearing aid compatibility (“HAC”), or to ensure that at least 50% of the handset models offered complied with the interference standards. In August 2009, SBI, in response to an inquiry from the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, amended its January 2009 Hearing Aid Compatibility Status Report to acknowledge that in the last four months of 2008, SBI had offered only seven handsets that met the required standard and that those seven models did not constitute 50% of the total number of handset models offered. The NAL noted that recent decisions have established a base forfeiture amount of $15,000 per handset model for violations of the HAC requirements and proposed a forfeiture of $15,000, with no adjustment, for SBI’s failure to comply.
On January 14, 2010, the SED released seven NALs and issued two citations against carriers and manufacturers for apparent violations of the wireless handset HAC status report filing requirements. The NALs proposed forfeitures ranging from $5,000 to $18,000, for a total of $87,000. Some of the NALs also alleged violations of the HAC public website posting requirements, and at least one of the NALs alleged a failure to respond to a Letter of Inquiry (“LOI”) from the Bureau. The NALs pointed out the SED has established a base forfeiture amount of $6,000 for failure to file a HAC status report and proposed forfeitures of that amount for each omitted report. The one exception was in the case of a carrier that had made a good faith but unsuccessful attempt to file a timely report, meriting a downward adjustment to $5,000. Because the HAC website postings are more current than the status reports and may be the primary means through which consumers obtain HAC information, the SED also established $6,000 as the base forfeiture for a violation of the web posting requirements.