UPDATE: The FCC appears to be backing off the rule change. According to The Washington Post, the commission will not vote on certain parts of the proposal on Thursday due to the “political backlash” the whole issue has stirred up.
As the rules currently stand, filing a consumer complaint with the FCC sees them assess and handle that complaint on your behalf. If it’s a valid complaint, an FCC consumer representative may contact you for further information then serve your complaint and require a written response within 30 days from the company. There is no charge, but that could be about to change.
As Engadget reports, tomorrow the FCC is set to look at its complaint-handling procedure and possibly alter it slightly. It could mean the rules change and your consumer complaint is only forwarded to the relevant provider who is then left to decide what to do without further intervention. The part where the FCC assesses your complaint, asks for more info, and demands a written response would be gone. Unless, of course, you pay.
If the rule change happens, getting the FCC to go through the same steps as it does today will require filing a formal complaint, which costs $225. That’s according to the Democrats, and in particular House Energy & Commerce Committee Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, who sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressing their concerns.
As CNET reports, the FCC refutes the claims being made, stating “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.”
If Pallone and Doyle are correct, the rule change could certainly save the FCC a lot of money, but it would also raise new money due to a natural increase in expensive formal complaints by consumers who feel let down enough by a company to spend $225 getting the FCC involved.
Now we just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow. The Democratic lawmakers are specifically concerned about this language in the proposed rule change:
“In all other cases, the Commission will notify the complainant that if the complainant is not satisfied by the carrier’s response, or if the carrier has failed to submit a response by the due date, the complainant may file a formal complaint in accordance with § 1.721 of this part.”
In contrast, the existing rule says this:
“In all other cases, the Commission will contact the complainant regarding its review and disposition of the matters raised. If the complainant is not satisfied by the carrier’s response and the Commission’s disposition, it may file a formal complaint in accordance with § 1.721 of this part.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more details about the rule change.
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