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FCC Reprimands a T-Mobile-Owned Subsidiary Over Lack of Assistance of Handicapped Customer


A T-Mobile-owned subsidiary was recently reprimanded by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its treatment of a blind customer. 

As reported by PhoneArena, Assurance Wireless, a blind customer requested for a new feature phone after his device died. Having been a subscriber for over 10 years, the company should have already been aware of the customer’s condition, which means he could not use a touchscreen smartphone. Instead, he required a feature phone equipped with a screen reader for his disability. 

According to the customer, he requested for a new device in January 2021. The FCC imposed an order on Assurance after “failing to comply with multiple sections of the Communications Act.” As a result, the customer had to endure three years of delay in service and continuously having to call customer service. The customer also had experienced a back-and-forth of device shipment after Assurance kept sending a device he could not use. 

In March 2023, the man received a Coolpad Belleza feature phone that would have already ended the hullabaloo. But the FCC argued that “the phone was not activated, and he could not make or receive phone calls.” This led the man to file another complaint on May 10, 2023. T-Mobile engineers were able to find the issue that prevented the feature phone from connecting to the network on May 18, 2023. But this still raised another concern of the device not being equipped with a native screen reader that the consumer needed. 

This led the FCC to issue an order on July 2, 2023 after Assurance Wireless “violated sections 255(c) and 716(b)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act), and sections 6.5(b)(1) and 14.20(a)(2) of the Commission’s rules (Rules) by failing to ensure its Lifeline service is accessible to and usable by individuals with vision disabilities.”

In its response, Assurance argued that a manufacturer told them that at least one device could be operated in a mode without vision. This led them to rely on the information told to them by the manufacturer. 

A few months later and the customer continued to have problems making calls. Shortly after, the company transported him to a store location and they discovered his phone was in Airplane Mode. After turning off this feature, the customer was able to make calls again. 

In December, the customer encountered another issue, which led him to file directly with the FCC. The agency ordered the company to replace the customer’s device, which would be compatible with its Lifeline service. They also ordered the wireless provider to train its customer service team to assist handicapped subscribers and improve its processes for handling accessibility issues.  

Assurance Wireless is a T-Mobile-owned company that it acquired along with its Sprint purchase. 

Source: PhoneArena

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