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The Impact of FCC Suing AT&T in Deaf Relay Services Scam

Posted by Brandchannel Staff on March 23, 2012 05:55 PM

With news that the FCC is suing AT&T over "deaf calling service fraud," we asked Michael Janger, who wrote "Baby Boomers: The New Disability Market" for us in December, for comment and context. Michael writes:

In the wake of the 2009 arrests of 26 people for Video Relay Services (VRS) fraud and their resulting convictions, the Federal Communications Commission implemented procedures for stronger oversight of its Telecommunication Relay Services program for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.  VRS and IP Relay operators have, in turn, tightened their policies and instituted systems to ensure compliance with FCC directives. 

These directives seem to have failed to reach AT&T. This week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against AT&T for improperly billing the FCC for calls made by Nigerian scam artists on AT&T’s IP-Relay service. The lawsuit charges that AT&T failed to follow a 2008 FCC requirement that relay providers register their users and verify their identities, and that up to 95% of AT&T’s call volume since 2009 was originated by fraudulent foreign callers taking advantage of the free calls. The cost of these improper reimbursements: $16 million.

For two decades, deaf and hard-of-hearing people have benefited from the Federal program for relay services, which enable them to communicate with anyone using a special telephone or videophone, or on their computer. Without these programs, many deaf people would be unable to call their family and friends, or do business over the phone. Even something as mundane as calling the credit card company about a lost credit card would be, at best, an hour-long call. Continue reading...

brand challenges

U.S. Challenges AT&T on Deaf Phone Relay Service

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 22, 2012 05:31 PM

Ever wonder what all those extra fees on your phone bill are paying for? Well, some part of it goes to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing be able to make phone calls. The service is given to folks “at no charge to place calls to hearing individuals through text messages over the Internet that are relayed by employees of a so-called IP Relay provider,” Reuters reports. Companies receive about $1.30 for each minute of the calls from the FCC.

Well, the U.S. government does not like how AT&T has been handling its relay services and has taken the telecom giant to court, saying that it has cheated the government “out of millions of dollars by knowingly failing to prevent swindlers from using a subsidized telephone service meant for deaf people,” the wire service notes. This is in addition to a suit filed by a whistleblower who used to work at one of the company’s call centers.Continue reading...

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