As the result of a settlement negotiated by the Enforcement Bureau and released yesterday, Purple Communications, Inc., will pay around $22 million to the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund. TRS is a vital service that allows people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone – through an interpreter – with hearing people. The settlement follows the FCC’s demand earlier this year that Purple restore millions of dollars to the fund for overbilling it in violation of FCC rules. The issues under investigation included whether the company unlawfully offered financial incentives to inflate TRS usage and billables, and whether the company recovered not once but twice from the fund for business-related calls to or from Purple employees. In addition to the payment to the TRS Fund, the settlement also requires Purple to adopt a detailed compliance plan to prevent future misconduct, and to pay $550,000 to the U.S. Treasury.
The action is a victory for consumers all the way around. The settlement protects carriers and the general public from overpaying into the TRS Fund. The $22 million paid back will directly offset what the fund will need in the future to pay for TRS service, and therefore what the public will need to pay to support it. And, most important, the settlement ensures that the fund will be used for its intended purpose – providing affordable relay services for consumers with disabilities who need and want to communicate with hearing people.
As I said Monday when we announced the Consent Decree, we simply will not tolerate abuse of the TRS Fund. The settlement with Purple strikes the right balance: it requires full repayment of the TRS Fund and compels an overhaul of Purple’s business practices; at the same time, it enables Purple to continue providing vital relay services to individuals with hearing or speech disabilities. We will remain vigilant in protecting the public trust -- the millions of Americans with hearing or speech disabilities deserve no less.
For more information visit the Enforcement Bureau page.