Senators Markey and Blumenthal Demand Anti-Consumer Member of Transportation Consumer Watchdog Committee Be Replaced
Washington (October 3, 2019) – On the one-year anniversary of Senate passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, wrote to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao demanding that she take immediate action to comply with the law by removing Frances Smith from the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (ACPAC) and appoint a legitimate consumer advocate to fill her seat. In the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, Congress reestablished the ACPAC to evaluate existing consumer protection programs and, if necessary, provide the Secretary with recommendations to improve existing programs or create new ones. The Secretary is required to appoint four members to the committee, one of whom must represent “nonprofit public interest groups with expertise in consumer protection matters.” DOT has intentionally flouted the law by filling the consumer protection seat with Frances Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an anti-regulation think tank with a predisposition to oppose efforts to improve or expand DOT’s aviation consumer protection programs.
“The flying public is legitimately upset with the commercial airline industry — over sky-high fees, massive IT meltdowns, shrinking seats, and the transparency of fare and fee information,” write the Senators in their letter to Secretary Chao. “As the nation’s only aviation cop on the beat, it is the DOT’s obligation to protect the flying public from abusive consumer practices — with the help of the ACPAC. At a minimum, this includes ensuring that the ACPAC has the congressionally mandated consumer representation.”
In addition to calling on Secretary Chao to replace Frances Smith, Senators Markey and Blumenthal also requested information about DOT’s process for identifying and appointing a consumer representative.
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.