House Dems worry FCC move to 'streamline' complaints will hurt consumers

House Dems worry FCC move to 'streamline' complaints will hurt consumers
© Greg Nash

A pair of top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee is asking Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai not to roll back his agency’s role in addressing consumer complaints.

Energy and Commerce ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.J.), and Communications and Technology Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleFCC passes controversial rule changing how it handles consumer complaints Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review House Dems worry FCC move to 'streamline' complaints will hurt consumers MORE (D-Pa.) both say in a letter to Pai that the proposed move would give consumers less recourse in bringing concerns with communications companies to light.

ADVERTISEMENT

“At a time when consumers are highly dissatisfied with their communications companies, this abrupt change in policy troubles us,” Pallone and Doyle wrote. “As the chief communications regulator, the FCC plays a critical role in ensuring consumers — including families, small businesses, and struggling Americans — get fair and honest treatment from their service providers.”

The Democrats say they worry that the new changes will remove the FCC from this role, and instead force consumers into a complicated and costly legal process to address their issues with communications companies.

Pallone and Doyle predicted that companies would simply suggest that consumers with issues file $225 formal complaints, which they say would discourage consumers from voicing concerns.

The two cited recent numbers showing telecommunications companies sitting among the least liked firms as evidence that consumers need easy ways to file complaints against communications companies.

The FCC has branded its proposal, which would let it pass informal complaints directly onto companies, as a “streamlining” of current policies.

An FCC spokesperson refuted Pallone and Doyle's argument in a statement.

“The item would not change the Commission’s handling of informal complaints; the Democrats’ letter is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the draft Order,” an FCC spokesperson told The Hill over email.