Our Code of Ethics
CSDVRS, LLC (“The Z®”) has always followed a Code of Ethics inside the company. We first drafted this Code in 2008. In January 2009, we put the Code of Ethics in final form and required all of our employees and our vendors to sign and follow it.
The Z firmly supports the deaf and hard of hearing community. We respect the rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Our Code guides our employees and vendors in promoting positive relationships within the community.
Given some of the current challenges experienced with VRS providers, we wanted to share this Code publicly. We strongly encourage other providers within the VRS industry to join us in developing similar Codes of Ethics or to adopt our code industry-wide.
As you can see, we do not condone or tolerate any illegal conduct among our employees, contractors and vendors.; If you have concerns about a possible violation of our Code of Ethics, we encourage you to report the matter to Mike Strecker, Compliance Officer:
ATTN: Mike Strecker
600 Cleveland Street Suite 1000
Clearwater FL 33755
Fax (727) 443-1537
CSDVRS, LLC (The Z®)
CODE OF ETHICS
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, or ADA, is the federal law that created and mandated the use of telecommunications relay services (TRS). With the passage of the ADA, the Federal Communications Act and attendant federal regulations were amended to account for TRS service. Central to the federal laws concerning TRS were the issues of functional equivalency and confidentiality. Specifically, Section 225 of the Communications Act states that relay calls must be “functionally equivalent” to voice calls, and Section 705 of the Act states that all communications made through TRS must remain private and confidential.;
The federal laws also charged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with setting up a means to reimburse TRS providers for calls made through their services. The FCC, in turn, issued a set of orders that prescribed the funding of companies like CSDVRS.;; Specifically, the FCC set up an Interstate TRS Fund, which the FCC oversees, that collects a small percentage of the annual revenues of interstate telephone and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) companies. The money in that fund is then paid out to TRS and video relay service (VRS) providers like CSDVRS for the calls that are handled. In this way, we are compensated for each minute an interpreter is engaged in support of VRS. The billable time for which we can be compensated is the time during which the interpreter is engaged in the call doing the actual interpreting (in support of functional equivalency). The call set up and any time the interpreter is not directly involved in a call is not billable.
CSDVRS markets services through many methods. The company will continue to use marketing and outreach to find people who have not yet started using VRS, but who can benefit from using this communication service. CSDVRS will also utilize marketing to convince people that our service will better meet their needs than the service of our competitors. We are driven as a company to continually improve and enhance our service, using advanced mainstream technologies that will better achieve functional equivalency and lead greater numbers of people to utilize our services. Our Wi-Fi enabled videophone is a good example of an advanced product that may be inviting to new customers. In this manner, we will promote our brand CSDVRS and “The Z” line of products and services.;
VRS has and will continue to foster better communication between hearing and deaf people. We firmly believe that our service will broaden educational and employment opportunities for deaf people and will bring a better quality of life to the people who use our service. We will actively seek to support, market and enhance our service, but in doing so, we must make sure that we engage in these activities in ways that are in accordance with the ADA, the Communications Act, and FCC orders implementing the laws
This Code of Ethics is designed to alert CSDVRS employees about practices that violate the principles of functional equivalency and privacy and are therefore strictly prohibited by CSDVRS and by the Federal Communications Commission.
Practically, functional equivalency means that a communication assistant, or interpreter, (the individual that relays a TRS conversation) is to a TRS call what a dial tone is to a voice call. This tenet of equivalency extends to not only to the basic functionality of a TRS call, but also to the day-to-day operations of the company. The basic rule that should be followed for VRS in regard to functional equivalency is this: VRS providers must be available to handle calls when consumers choose to make them, and should not be enticing consumers to make calls they might not otherwise make. As shown by the examples below, any program that offers any kind of financial incentive or reward for a consumer to place a TRS call that the consumer would otherwise not make, including arrangements that require a minimum level of usage, are not permitted within the principle of functional equivalency.
As a company, CSDVRS will not commit or tolerate fraud, cheating, or deceit in any way. Any employee who is not clear as to whether a specific practice is permissible under this Code of Ethics, the law, or the FCC rules, should seek clarity from someone in management, including the CEO. The “golden rule” applies in general within CSDVRS: if it appears questionable, it probably is not permitted. Ask yourself, does this seem right? Does it appear to be an ethical practice? Is it appropriate to participate in this activity? If it seems like it is not meeting these tests, or that it is an attempt to “beat the system,” it is probably illegal and you should seek clarification from someone in management.
What follows are some examples of unethical or illegal practices under the law and FCC rules. Employees found committing any of the prohibited items listed in this Code of Ethics may be disciplined and that employee’s employment or contract with CSDVRS may be terminated
Incentives or Rewards to Use VRS: No CSDVRS employee or agent acting on behalf of CSDVRS will provide incentives or rewards to use our service. Example: We will not support a program or tell an individual customer that if he or she uses minutes of our service, we will give them something. This includes small rewards, such as a Starbucks card or a movie ticket, as well as larger items, such as computers. While we are permitted to promote and market our VRS brand by giving away promotional items such as T shirts, mouse pads, pens, or even more significant items such as videophones or other video equipment, we cannot and will not tie such “give-aways” to the use of our service. Among other things, we will not require users to make a minimum number of calls or reward users who have the most minutes for any past or future period with a prize. Similarly we will not use “point” systems, with points given for minutes, which can later be exchanged for rewards.
Surveys Producing Calls:
CSDVRS will not conduct surveys that result in calls being made that would otherwise not have been made. We cannot use our own team or a third party to conduct a survey – via CSDVRS – about our business, in which deaf people ask questions of hearing people or hearing people ask questions of deaf people. This would create minutes that would not have been generated under normal circumstances.;;
Making Calls to Generate Minutes:
An outreach person, an affiliate, and any other employee or agent of CSDVRS will not make calls that they would not otherwise make in order to generate minutes. Any employee or contractor found generating minutes in this manner will be terminated immediately. Although our marketing and outreach people regularly undertake efforts to expand CSDVRS’ share of the VRS market, these individuals should be focused on finding new customers or utilizing enhanced products to attract additional use of our service, not on getting customers to make calls they otherwise would not make.;
Asking a Friend or Family Member or Hired Third Parties to Make Calls They Would Not Normally Make:
CSDVRS and its employees and agents will never ever ask anyone to make calls via CSDVRS that they would otherwise not make. In addition, although this is obvious, no one should ever pay someone – deaf or hearing – to make CSDVRS calls. This would constitute fraud, and in addition to termination from employment or contract, could subject the offending party to criminal prosecution.
Extending a Call Beyond Its Normal Course:
Just as CSDVRS will never make a call that would not otherwise be made, it will never extend a call to generate minutes.;
CSDVRS will not create an in-house teleseminar that utilizes VRS. For example CSDVRS management will not tolerate the creation and promotion of a tele-class on debt consolidation if the class is created by someone at CSDVRS. There are many third party teleseminars; when these have no attachment to CSDVRS, they are fine and may be handled by CSDVRS interpreters. For example, if the Bank of America put on a teleseminar for debt consolidation, it would be fine for deaf customers to call in through VRS.
Conference Calling:Conference calls are a normative part of group communications, and CSDVRS will not inhibit the ability of deaf people from utilizing such services. However, current FCC rules mandate that a VRS conference call must contain at least one hearing person. As such, CSDVRS will only process conference calls through VRS if there is at least one person on the call that is hearing. Moreover, the hearing party(ies) must be active participants to the call and not be on the call simply to meet the FCC mandate.
Video Privacy Screens:
CSDVRS will not permit the use of video privacy screens by deaf callers for extended periods of time unless it is disclosed that this is a voice carryover customer (VCO) with a VCO selected profile created. For example, callers should not be permitted to use video privacy screens when calling into conference calls, retrieving podcasts, or watching webcasts. The purpose of this limitation is to prevent callers from making fake calls, i.e., from leaving the call after being connected to the requested event.; The interpreter must be able to see the calling party in order to ensure that the caller legitimately remains on the relay call. In the above example, connection to the Bank of America teleseminar would be fine, so long as the deaf customer remains visible to the interpreter as the call progresses. On a non-VCO call, if an interpreter is unable to see the calling party, he or she should notify a supervisor, who should terminate the call if unable to see the calling party.
Processing Same-Location Calls:
CSDVRS will not handle calls where all parties to the conversation are in the same room.; Unlike VRS calls, which take place between individuals over distances, same room interpreting is called video remote interpreting (VRI). FCC rules prohibit VRS providers or interpreters from promoting or handling VRI calls. All of CSDVRS’ interpreters are trained to identify and terminate a VRI call if they can see that both parties to the call are in the same room. Hiding from the screen or creating some other means of disguising a VRI call as a VRS call is also against CSDVRS and FCC rules
Creating False Services:
It is impermissible to create a new service that is designed to generate minutes. This could take many forms. One example would be using CSDVRS deaf employees to do telemarketing for a hearing company. Another example would be creating or hiring a third party company to telemarket for CSDVRS utilizing CSDVRS services.
Fake or Improper Interpreting:
We have recently heard of some creative ways that interpreters working for other VRS providers have created or extended VRS minutes in order to add to their break times, extend performance measurement, or increase billing.;; For example, we have heard of interpreters calling into VRS repeatedly with their own cell phones until they connected to their own VRS station. In this scheme, the interpreter creates a closed VRS loop that requires no interpreting, but gives the appearance of being on a VRS call. We have also heard of interpreters calling into webcasts with one or more videophones, and leaving the lines open while allegedly, but not actually, interpreting such webcasts. These and similar practices are fraudulent and will not be tolerated. They will subject the employee or contractor to termination and could result in criminal prosecution.
As all of you know, CSDVRS has very exciting new phones coming to the market which we hope will attract new customers. We will provide these subsidized phones to VRS users, with priority first going to our customers. We will not and cannot ask customers to make more calls so they can get a phone faster or move up on a waiting list. Again the guideline for this, as for all our activities, is to prohibit efforts that attempt to get customers to make calls they would not have otherwise made. If customers move to CSDVRS because they like our phone, that is acceptable. However, if they make calls that they would not typically make, or if we encourage this type of behavior, that would be against our policy and FCC regulations
Call Backs:VRS providers must answer calls only when a consumer chooses to make a call.; The FCC does not allow providers to have customers reach a recorded message, ask the caller to leave information, and use that information to call the consumer back when the provider is able (or desires) to place the call. This type of call-back arrangement is not permitted because it allows the provider, not the consumer to be in control of when the call is placed. However, if the call connection between an interpreter and a caller is mistakenly dropped – for example, because of a technical break in the broadband connection – the interpreter is permitted to call the user back to re-connect the call.
Advance Reservations for Calls:
CSDVRS will not allow VRS consumers to make advance reservations to be able to reach an interpreter without delay. This would be inconsistent with the functional equivalency mandates, and is more in line with VRI, which is a contracted service. Reaching a VRS interpreter is supposed to be the equivalent of picking up the phone and getting a dial tone. Calls must be handled in the order in which they are received, with the exception of emergency calls, which will be given priority over all other calls.
Selectively Answering Calls from Preferred Consumers or Locations:
CSDVRS will not monitor incoming callers so as to give preference to certain customers or locations when handling calls.; This would constitute a violation of functional equivalency. CSDVRS will handle incoming calls in the order in which they are received, with the exception of emergency calls, which will be given priority over all other calls.
International to International Calls: CSDVRS employees and contractors know and understand that all VRS calls must either originate (begin) or terminate (end) within the United States or one of its territories. Known International to International calls must be terminated by CSDVRS interpreters in accordance with CSDVRS policy and FCC orders. During the course of any VRS call, should an interpreter discover that the call is both originating and terminating in a foreign country or countries, allowing the call to continue is strictly prohibited, is in violation of law, and may lead to disciplinary actions.
Calls made by deaf users involving three or more individuals must include the participation of the deaf caller. A call which is clearly made solely for the purpose of connecting two hearing people must be terminated. One reason that such a call might be made is to enable the hearing participants to avoid long distance charges. If an interpreter believes that a three-way call has been made simply to facilitate calling between two hearing people, he or she should consult a supervisor, who should assess the situation and terminate the call if necessary.
These policies are not arbitrarily created, and are directly linked to and born from the Communications Act, the Code of Federal Regulations, and applicable FCC orders. Violation of any of these policies is a very serious offense and could subject the offending party to termination of employment with CSDVRS, termination of their contract relationship with CSDVRS, and even criminal prosecution
PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY OF TRS CALLS
In light of functional equivalency, the law provides that the contents of a TRS communication must be maintained in complete confidence. Just as a dial tone would not reveal the contents of a voice call, so must an interpreter refrain from disclosing any information from a TRS call; this to maintain functional equivalency. Privacy and confidentiality is a matter that is taken very seriously by CSDVRS and the FCC, so it is vital that all CSDVRS employees understand and comply with this provision. The general rule is simply this: the contents of a VRS call are to remain the private and confidential information of the callers and are not to be relayed to a third party by the interpreter.
Despite the nondisclosure rule, there do exist some minor exceptions within the regulations and FCC orders concerning what can be disclosed from a TRS call. Specifically, an interpreter on a VRS call can relay to emergency officials only (i.e., 911) what he or she sees on the VRS screen such as a fire, person in distress, etc. There also exist certain exceptions to the nondisclosure rule when the interpreter witnesses illegal acts. Specifically, an interpreter may relay information to the voice user about what they see in the context of all VRS calls (including evidence of illegal acts), in which case the voice user may contact the appropriate authorities. The FCC rules also state that no records can be kept of any TRS call, but an exception exists for 911 calls.; In such instances, an interpreter may record what is seen or heard on a VRS call, but only for a reasonable amount of time after the call ends. Any such information gathered can only be released to emergency officials in the event that they call back.;
But for the specific exceptions described above, all information relayed through our VRS service must and will remain confidential. Any knowing and willful violation will subject the offending party to immediate termination of employment and possible prosecution by federal authorities.
WHISTLE BLOWER POLICY
CSDVRS maintains a whistle blower policy with respect to this Code of Ethics. This policy allows any employee the ability to anonymously disclose to senior management any known or suspected violations listed in this Code of Ethics, or any other activity which you believe or know to be unethical, fraudulent, or otherwise inappropriate. Any whistle blower wishing to identify themselves will be permitted to do so, but no such identification is required as all disclosures under this policy will be treated confidentially. Following any disclosure made under this policy, we will promptly investigate any accusation of wrongdoing and we will immediately take any and all appropriate action to rectify the situation.
CONCLUSION AND EXECUTION
In conclusion, we all must realize that we do not need to violate any laws, regulations, or FCC orders in order to build a strong and successful company. Indeed, we are already building a successful company, and we are doing great things for the deaf community. At CSDVRS, we will continue to thrive as a company by doing it the right way, and at all times complying with orders, laws, and regulations that apply to our industry.