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The FCC is thinking about making users pay $255 before it considers their complaints

Image credit: Reason TV

Proposed changes to the FCC's operating procedures could significantly hamper consumers' ability to bring their complaints against communication companies to the agency, and bring corporations to task for allegedly unfair or uncompetitive practices.

According to a letter issued by two Democratic members of the House, who are also on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the government body is looking to vote on new rules that would allow it to ignore all informal complaints made to it, instead opting to pass them along to the offending company directly. If passed, this would mean that customers unhappy with their telecommunications provider or ISP would have little help from the government in addressing their concerns, and would result is far lesser oversight on the communication sector as a whole.

The only recourse for customers unsatisfied by the companies' response to their complaints would be to lodge a formal complaint to the FCC, which comes with a significant $255 fee. This fee has always existed for formal complaints, but current FCC rules requires the agency to also consider informal complaints and comments made to it. The new rules may require a user, for example, disgruntled with his ISP for failing to meet its advertised speeds to have to pay $255 if the company is unwilling to abide by its contract, a sum that may make the process entirely unfeasible for many of the lower-earning segments of the US population.

A more practical example of what the new rules would allow the FCC to skate by with is the recent barrage of over 20 million comments made to the agency following its decision to scrap net neutrality rules imposed by the previous administration on ISPs. If the vote on Thursday passes, the FCC could simply ignore comments of this nature, whereas they would previously be required to take consumer feedback of this kind into account when passing new legislation.

"We have all heard countless stories of consumers complaining to the FCC about waiting months to have an erroneous charge removed from their bill or for a refund for a service they never ordered or about accessibility services that are not working. Oftentimes these issues are corrected for consumers as a result of the FCC’s advocacy on their behalf,” the letter reads. You may peruse it in its entirety here.

Via: The Verge

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