WASHINGTON, DC — The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today entitled, “FCC Needs to Improve Oversight of Wireless Phone Service.” GAO conducted the report in response to a request by Rep. Edward Markey when he chaired the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Rep. Markey requested that GAO review consumers’ satisfaction and problems with wireless phone service and efforts to oversee consumer complaints.
“Today’s report offers important insights into consumers’ level of satisfaction with their wireless phone service and federal and state efforts to track and resolve consumer complaints,” said Rep. Markey. “With an estimated 270 million wireless phone subscribers nationwide, even the small percentage of consumers who reported being dissatisfied with aspects of their wireless phone service represents millions of Americans across the country.”
“GAO has pinpointed one key reason for consumer dissatisfaction – early termination fees charged by carriers – which raises concerns both from a consumer protection and a competition standpoint. In the digital age, where technology can change overnight, consumers should not be chained to their wireless provider for years through exorbitant early termination fees. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on these important consumer and competitive issues in the wireless marketplace,” said Rep. Markey.
According to the report, GAO estimated that among wireless users who wanted to switch carriers during their contract period but did not do so, 42% didn’t switch because they did not want to pay an early termination fee.
“The GAO report shows that while most Americans are generally satisfied with their wireless service, which speaks well for the carriers, they also do not know where to turn when they have a problem they haven’t been able to resolve with their carrier. The FCC should work with state utility commissions to educate consumers about how best to address these issues,” said Rep. Rick Boucher, current Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. “My subcommittee will continue to monitor this issue closely.”
“The GAO report shows that a large majority of wireless phone users are satisfied with their wireless service. This is good news, and the wireless industry deserves credit for serving the majority of its customers well,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “However, the report also suggests that millions of consumers still experience problems related to billing, fees, and customer service. Although I believe robust competition between wireless carriers is the best way to protect consumers, it is critical that the FCC, Congress, and the wireless industry monitor this situation closely and be prepared to act in the best interests of consumers.”
A full copy of the report can be found at http://markey.house.gov/docs/gaowirelessreport.pdf