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 — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch MORE (D-N.J.), and Communications and Technology Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Hillicon Valley: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference Reddit, Google to testify before House panel on tech's legal protections 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.

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“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.