Communications regulators say that there are sufficient relay services in the island.
A relay service provides facilities for the receipt and translation of voice messages into text or vice versa, for those with hearing or speech impairments.
Following the withdrawal of a calling experience called clearSound, which enables individuals with hearing impairments to make calls, the Manx Deaf Society contacted the Communications and Utility Regulation Authority regarding a lack of alternative services available for individuals with hearing impairments.
When Manx Telecom suspended clearSound, it said: ‘There is a wide range of alternative products available to support the hard of hearing including voice to text and amplification applications.’
However, Mrs Buxton, chief executive of the Manx Deaf Society, challenged this, and said that the only provider of relay services was BT, which does not operate in the Isle of Man.
The Manx Deaf Society contacted CURA to ask: ‘What relay service is available to Isle of Man residents, when was the last time CURA tested that this was in place, and what are the many commercially available solutions that operators are considering to be relay services?’
CURA did not respond to the Manx Deaf Society. However, it published an information notice in response.
The notice said: ‘It is important to note that the obligation on the communications provider is to ensure consumers “are able to access a relay service”, not for a communications provider to provide such a service directly on its own network.
‘Having liaised with providers on this matter, it was ascertained that there are a number of commercially available solutions that would be considered relay services, as well as other aids that enable consumers with hearing impairments to communicate effectively.’
Mrs Buxton said: ‘The regulator has in our honest opinion failed to investigate the issue properly itself and relied upon the assurance of operators that non-regulated services are suitable.
‘The Manx Deaf Society considers the statement by CURA to be incomplete and unsafe.’
The notice said: ‘The authority deems “any service which….provides facilities for the receipt and translation of voice messages into text to the terminal of customers of any provider of publicly available telephone services and vice versa” to be a relay service for the purposes of the licence condition.’
It added: ‘The authority would like to clarify that any such service which meets this definition, and is in keeping with the broader condition, would be considered an ‘approved service.’
Mrs Buxton said: ‘Telecommunications are protected from interception with safeguards, operators should not be able to recommend untested and unassured services to vulnerable customers.
‘The regulator should ensure that Relay services that are recommended to customers by operators are safe and secure for use.
She added: ‘We remain open to discussion with CURA and the operators to resolve this securely for all customers.’