TV Ears Loses Veterans Administration Bid to Foreign Company

Spring Valley, CA, Feb. 1, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Last year, TV Ears, Inc., which manufactures the number one selling wireless television headset system in the country, lost a bid to supply assistive listening devices to hearing impaired veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Although the TV Ears product is made in the United States, the contract was awarded to a product made in China. This bid will cost the VA $3 million more than the TV Ears bid.

The VA said they declined to award TV Ears the contract because they said they found the TV Ears product to have "poor sound quality, a narrow line of sight/static with head turns, a high frequency hum, and problems with lights on the device." According to the VA, a subjective evaluation was all that was needed because the regulations authorized such an evaluation to make the decision.

TV Ears’ Digital 95+, the product submitted by TV Ears, was the only "trade-compliant" product that was submitted by the 10 companies that bid - meaning that it was the only product made in America or in another country with preferred trading status.

When George Dennis, President and Founder of TV Ears, sought to communicate with the VA’s Contracting Officer about why his company had lost the bid, he was told that she "had been advised to terminate any and all conversations" with him. On the same day, the Procurement Analyst for the Office of Acquisition and Logistics notified Dennis that they "obtained a copy (his) correspondence dated June 2, 2011 through unofficial means," possibly nullifying any opportunity to protest the results of the bid. (This same correspondence had originally been submitted to the office of Congressman Duncan Hunter, who told Dennis that they would forward his letter to the correct office within the VA.)

TV Ears is a U.S. made product with over 2 million customers. Dennis decided to have the TV Ears product tested by an independent acoustic measurements testing lab.

In a report dated October 11, 2011, Nevada Sound Research LLC (NSR) addressed all four claims that the VA reported as reasons that TV Ears did not win the VA bid. When sound quality was tested by NSR, it was reported that "overall sound quality is at best extraordinary, with no loss of consonants (Speech Intelligibility)." With regards to line of sight, test results showed that "both transmitter and headset receiver’s infrared signal (operating at 95 KHz) have extraordinarily wide angle distribution over a very large range." The hum reported by the VA was regarded by NSR as "normal volume hiss (that occurs when) no program material is being played, and which disappears during normal use of the audio device." Furthermore, stated NSR, "TV Ears does not display any unusual noise level at 60 Hz that would be audible during the use of the product by the consumer." The final claim made by the VA that lights did not work on the device was also evaluated. NSR tested this claim as well and reported that "Results are all lights in all functions appear to operate throughout all modes and show no signs of malfunction."

Nevada Sound Research’s lab results concluded that "the problems encountered by the Veterans Administration and stated in the denial of product acceptability (are) without merit" and that "the test results clearly demonstrate the product meets or exceeds all claims made by the manufacturer."

TV Ears appealed this matter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In its appeal, the Company made the arguments discussed above about the quality of the TV Ears product and the testing that led to the VA’s decision, and referenced the results of the testing by Nevada Sound Research. On November 21, 2011 the GAO advised TV Ears that its protest was being dismissed because it was not timely filed with the VA. The VA told TV Ears that the Company’s protest was addressed correctly and was received by the VA agency in time, but that Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office faxed it to an individual other than the addressee within the VA, nullifying the protest. The contract still remains awarded to a company whose product is made in China.

(To read all documentation between the VA and TV Ears, visit the TV Ears Blog.)


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