The Federal Communications Commission is considering changing how it handles complaints that could prevent many individuals from addressing issues with their cable or internet service providers.
Two Congressmen have sent a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, expressing deep concerns about a proposed policy shift that would see informal complaints from consumers passed directly onto service providers rather than being reviewed by FCC staffers. People upset enough to file a formal complaint would have to pay a $225 fee.
The $225 fee isn’t new, but consumers have traditionally been able to get relief via the informal process, which comes at no cost.
“At a time when consumers are highly dissatisfied with their communications companies, this abrupt change in policy troubles us,” wrote Democrats Frank Pallone Jr., a ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Greg Walden, a ranking member of the subcommittee on communication and technology. “We have all heard countless stories of consumers complaining to the FCC about waiting months to have an erroneous charge removed from their bill or for a refund for a service they never ordered. … Oftentimes these issues are corrected for consumers as a result of the FCC’s advocacy on their behalf. We worry that the proposed change signals that the FCC no longer intends to play this role and will simply tell consumers with limited means and time that they need to start an expensive and complicated formal legal process.”
The FCC says the changes, which will be voted upon Thursday, won’t affect informal complaints and Pallone and Walden’s letter is “based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the draft order.”
Trust in the FCC is fairly low these days, though, after allegations that Pai lied about a DDoS attack that brought down government servers during the net neutrality debate and the agency ignored calls by Internet leaders to cancel the net neutrality vote.