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 PCMA — Lawmakers pay tribute to John Dingell's legacy on health care | White House denies officials are sabotaging ObamaCare | FDA wants meeting with Juul, Altria execs on youth vaping Hillicon Valley: Dems ready to subpoena Trump Tower meeting phone records | Dems, Whitaker in standoff over testimony | Bezos accuses National Enquirer of 'extortion' | Amazon offers rules for facial recognition | Apple releases FaceTime fix Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump official says agency would not have supported family separations | 2020 Dems walk fine line on 'Medicare for all' | Advocates skeptical of Trump AIDS pledge | Johnson and Johnson to show drug prices on TV MORE (D-N.J.), and Communications and Technology Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHillicon Valley: Lawmakers press officials on 2020 election security | T-Mobile, Sprint execs defend merger before Congress | Officials charge alleged Iranian spy | Senate panel kicks off talks on data security bill House Dems grill T-Mobile, Sprint execs on merger House members hint at bipartisan net neutrality bill 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.