If you have ever had to dispute unauthorized charges on your phone or cable bill, been bombarded by email spam or bothered by telemarketing calls and found filing a complaint with regulators was a maze of forms and confusion, a new website promises to make make it much simpler in the future.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Monday that the agency launched a new online consumer help center with information about common issues consumers encounter with access, programming or providers of TV, radio, phone and internet. The site also streamlines the complaint process and gives consumers a way to track the progress of their complaint.
“The consumer help center is part of the FCC’s broader efforts to reform its processes to better serve the public,” the FCC said in a release. “By quickly and efficiently managing consumer complaints, the FCC will help protect consumers and give them a greater voice in its policy initiatives to improve communications services for all.”
In a March 2014 letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Tom Udall (D-NM) urged the agency to create the new online consumer complaint database to handle the 400,000 complaints received annually.
“We believe a searchable and user-friendly consumer complaints database will enhance transparency, help the FCC empower consumers, and spur greater innovation in the telecommunications marketplace. Furthermore, improving the collection and disclosure of consumer complaint information could help the Commission identify emerging issues, as well as inform its enforcement and policymaking activities,” the letter said.
Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports, advised the FCC in making the website user-friendly.
“This site will make it easier for people to file and track complaints about problems like annoying robocalls and fraudulent charges, and it will help the FCC spot emerging trends in the marketplace,” said Delara Derakhashani, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “This is a one-stop shop for consumers, and it’s a real improvement over the old system where forms and information were spread out and hard to find. We’re pleased that more of this complaint data is going to be available to the public, which will help root out problems and raise the bar for companies.”
The website will also make complaint resolution faster by speeding up communication between the FCC and service providers.
Derakhshani said, “When you’re struggling to fix a problem with a phone company or a cable provider, it’s hard to know where to turn. The FCC has streamlined its process so you can make a complaint, keep up with its progress, and communicate with people who can help you.”