Report Highlights Need for Greater Consumer Protections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, released a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that highlights serious shortcomings in the responsiveness and effectiveness of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) processing of consumer complaints about violations of telecommunication laws and rules. The report underscores the need to ensure that consumer protection enforcement mechanisms are sufficient and realistic, as outlined in draft legislation addressing new, national consumer protection rules for the wireless industry circulated by Chairman Markey last month.

"Without an effective FCC enforcement program, consumers are left out in the cold. Moreover, the GAO's report makes clear that any legislation establishing national consumer protection rules for the wireless market, must have meaningful, supplementary enforcement at the state level. Unfortunately, solely relying upon FCC enforcement for consumer protection is utterly unreasonable in light of the GAO's findings," said Chairman Markey.

The GAO found that:

  • The FCC receives about 100,000 complaints from individuals and companies every year. The FCC investigated approximately 10 percent of complaints received between 2003 and 2006 and closed 83 percent of those investigations with no enforcement action.
  • The FCC's Enforcement Bureau has no specific enforcement goals, does not have a strategy for enforcement actions and does not track of the effectiveness of enforcement actions.
  • FCC's Enforcement Bureau uses five separate databases, in addition to manually searching tens of thousands of paper case files, in order to track enforcement activities. The database contains no standard information on why the vast majority of investigations are closed with no enforcement action.

The GAO report may be found HERE. (pdf)

Chairman Markey circulated draft legislation on wireless issues last month which includes provisions to improve consumer protection by empowering state authorities to enforce national consumer protection standards established by the FCC. On Feb. 27th, Chairman Markey held a hearing on this draft proposal. (Draft legislation and hearing statement available here.)

"In order to fulfill its mandate to protect consumers, ensure public safety and encourage competition, the FCC must be an effective enforcer of our telecommunications law. If it is not doing the job, reform existing procedures and bolster the resources at the commission to protect consumer welfare and ensure fair competition," concluded Chairman Markey.

March 13, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836