Lawmakers Call On FCC To Make Complaint Database Accessible To Public

Every year, the FCC receives hundreds of thousands of complaints from consumers, but those gripes are rarely made public. That’s why a pair of Senators are urging the Commission to follow the lead of other federal agencies that offer public, searchable databases of complaints.

Citing the need for improved transparency and better customer service for consumers, Senators Bill Nelson (FL) and Tom Udall (NM) sent a letter [PDF] late Tuesday urging FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to create an easily accessible and publicly searchable online consumer complaint database like those currently run by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“We believe a searchable and user-friendly costumer complaint database will enhance transparency, help the FCC empower consumers, and spur greater innovation in the telecommunications marketplace,” the Senators write.

Additionally, the Senators say, the database would make it easier for the Commission to identify issues that need to be addressed.

Currently, the more than 400,000 consumer complaints and public inquiries received by the FCC each year are only made public on a limited basis.

The letter notes that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the complaint numbers may be low because many consumers are not aware of the Commission’s filing process and procedures for complaints and that the FCC lacked measures to effectively resolve problems through its complaint process.

“A searchable online database of consumer complaints will facilitate FCC transparency, benefit consumers, and ensure that all stakeholders have information about current trends in the telecommunications marketplace,” the letter reads.

Our co-workers at Consumers Union, a long-time advocate for public complaint databases, applauded the Senators’ call for the FCC service.

“Consumers often don’t know where to turn for help with telecommunications issues or think that they’re the only one struggling with a problem. An easily accessed, searchable database would help consumers see similar complaints and how they were resolved,” said Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union.

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