Apple Working on iChat & 3D UI for Portables
Apple Reveals New Touch Screen Technology for iPhone & MacBook Tablet

Apple Gets knuckles Rapped with FCC Fine

Fotolia_15998478_XS Gavel, Jan 2010 v2 smaller

On December 2, 2009, a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture was made public against Apple Inc. by Kathryn S. Berthot, Chief Spectrum Enforcement Division of the FCC under file number EB-09-SE-152. According to the FCC document "Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules requires handset manufacturers to file hearing aid compatibility status reports under revised rules initially on January 15, 2009 (covering the six month period ending December 31, 2008) and then annually beginning July 15, 2009.   Apple did not file the report covering the six month period ending December 31, 2008 until June 3, 2009, nearly 5 months after the January 15, 2009 due date.   Accordingly, we find that Apple failed to timely file the hearing aid compatibility status report in apparent willful  violation of the requirements set forth in Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules." Additionally, the FCC documents state that "We conclude under this standard that Apple is apparently liable for forfeiture for its failure to timely file the required hearing aid compatibility status report in apparent willful violation of the requirements set forth in Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules." The FCC, however, did find "that downward adjustment to the $6,000 base forfeiture amount to $5,000 is warranted based on Apple’s demonstrated good faith effort."   A major portion of the FCC document is enclosed in this report for verification purposes.


Introduction

 

In this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture ("NAL"), we find that Apple, Inc. ("Apple") apparently willfully violated the wireless handset hearing aid compatibility status report filing requirements set forth in Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Commission's Rules ("Rules"). For this apparent violation, we propose a forfeiture in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000).   

   

Background

 

In the 2003 Hearing Aid Compatibility Order, the Commission adopted several measures to enhance the ability of individuals with hearing disabilities to access digital wireless telecommunications.  The Commission established technical standards that digital wireless handsets must meet to be considered compatible with hearing aids operating in acoustic coupling and inductive coupling (telecoil) modes.  


The Commission further established, for each standard, deadlines by which manufacturers and service providers were required to offer specified numbers or percentages of digital wireless handsets per air- interface that are compliant with the relevant standard if they did not come under the de minimis exception.  In February 2008, as part of a comprehensive reconsideration of the effectiveness of the hearing aid compatibility rules, the Commission released an order that, among other things, adopted new compatible handset deployment benchmarks beginning in 2008.   

 

3. In order to monitor the availability of these handsets, the Commission initially required manufacturers and digital wireless service providers to report every six months on efforts toward compliance with the hearing aid compatibility requirements for the first three years of implementation (May 17, 2004, November 17, 2004, May 17, 2005, November 17, 2005, May 17, 2006 and November 17, 2006), and then annually thereafter through the fifth year of implementation (November 19, 2007 and November 17, 2008).   In its 2008 Hearing Aid Compatibility First Report and Order, the Commission extended these reporting requirements with certain modifications on an open ended basis, beginning January 15, 2009.   The Commission also made clear that these reporting requirements apply to carriers that fit within the de minimus exception.   

 

4. Apple failed to timely file the required report for the period July 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008, filing it on June 3, 2009, nearly five months after the deadline of January 15, 2009.   Apple timely filed the required report for the period January 1, 2009 through June 30, 2009 on July 15, 2009.   On September 16, 2009, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“WTB”) referred Apple’s apparent violation of the hearing aid compatibility reporting requirements to the Enforcement Bureau for action.

 

Discussion

 

A.   Failure to File Timely Hearing Aid Compatibility Status Report

 

5. Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules requires handset manufacturers to file hearing aid compatibility status reports under revised rules initially on January 15, 2009 (covering the six month period ending December 31, 2008) and then annually beginning July 15, 2009.   Apple did not file the report covering the six month period ending December 31, 2008 until June 3, 2009, nearly 5 months after the January 15, 2009 due date.   Accordingly, we find that Apple failed to timely file the hearing aid compatibility status report in apparent willful  violation of the requirements set forth in Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules.

 

B.     Proposed Forfeiture

 

6. Under Section 503(b)(1)(B) of the Act, any person who is determined by the Commission to have willfully or repeatedly failed to comply with any provision of the Act or any rule, regulation, or order issued by the Commission shall be liable to the United States for a forfeiture penalty.   To impose such a forfeiture penalty, the Commission must issue a notice of apparent liability and the person against whom such notice has been issued must have an opportunity to show, in writing, why no such forfeiture penalty should be imposed.   The Commission will then issue a forfeiture if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the person has violated the Act or a Commission rule.   We conclude under this standard that Apple is apparently liable for forfeiture for its failure to timely file the required hearing aid compatibility status report in apparent willful violation of the requirements set forth in Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules.   

 

7. The Commission’s Forfeiture Policy Statement and Section 1.80(b) of the Rules set a base forfeiture amount of $3,000 for the failure to file required forms or information.   While the base forfeiture requirements are guidelines lending some predictability to the forfeiture process, the Commission retains the discretion to depart from these guidelines and issue forfeitures on a case by case basis, under its general forfeiture authority contained in Section 503 of the Act.   In exercising such discretion, we are required to take into account "the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation and, with respect to the violator, the degree of culpability, any history of prior offenses, ability to pay, and such other matters as justice may require."

 

8. In the American Samoa Telecommunications Authority NAL, we found that the status reports are essential to the implementation and enforcement of the hearing aid compatibility rules.   The Commission relies on these reports to provide consumers with information regarding the technical specifications and commercial availability of hearing aid-compatible digital wireless handsets and to hold the digital wireless industry accountable to the increasing number of hearing-impaired individuals.   We noted that when setting an $8,000 base forfeiture for violations of the hearing aid-compatible handset labeling requirements, the Commission emphasized that individuals with hearing impairments could only take advantage of critically important public safety benefits of digital wireless services if they had access to accurate information regarding hearing aid compatibility features of handsets.   We also noted that the Commission has upwardly adjusted the base forfeiture when noncompliance with filing requirements interferes with the accurate administration and enforcement of Commission rules.   Because the failure to file hearing aid compatibility status reports implicates similar public safety and enforcement concerns, we exercised our discretionary authority and established a base forfeiture amount of $6,000 for failure to file hearing aid compatibility reports.   Consistent with ASTCA, we will apply the same base forfeiture amount here. 

 

9. Apple’s failure to file the report on time had an adverse impact on the Commission’s ability to ensure the commercial availability of hearing aid-compatible digital wireless handsets.  We find, however, that downward adjustment to the $6,000 base forfeiture amount to $5,000 is warranted based on Apple’s demonstrated good faith effort.  Although Apple failed to timely file the January Status Report, it did file the report prior to the commencement of an investigation by the Commission.  Accordingly, we propose a forfeiture of $5,000 against Apple for apparently willfully failing to timely file its January 15, 2009 hearing aid compatibility status report in violation of Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules.  

 

Ordering Clauses

 

10.     Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 503(b) of the Act, and Section 1.80 of the Rules, Apple, Inc. IS NOTIFIED of its APPARENT LIABILITY FOR A FORFEITURE in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for failing to file its hearing aid compatibility status report in apparent willful violation of the requirements set forth in Section 20.19(i)(1) of the Rules.  

 

11.     IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 1.80 of the Rules, within thirty days of the release date of this Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, Apple, Inc. SHALL PAY the full amount of the proposed forfeiture or SHALL FILE a written statement seeking reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.

Comments

This is very nice blog to understand the law it contain nice detail regarding over law.The whole system is really a very nice one .I am very excited about this one it is really a very important one for us.

South Africa

That's why the report was titled as it was, Joe. It's amazing what people get upset over.

I spend a good deal of time dealing with the Federal Bureaucracy. It's not hard to understand how an oversight like this would happen.

Apple messed up, they made a good faith effort to resolve the problem (according to the FCC), and they'll pay a small fine.

Not worth the time to write up the story.

The comments to this entry are closed.