FCC's Complaint Handling Criticized
March 14, 2008 at 5:30 AM (PT)
Congressional investigators THURSDAY chastised the FCC for poor recordkeeping, which they said made it difficult to find out why most consumer complaints about telemarketers, indecent TV broadcasts and other matters were dismissed, reports THE L.A. TIMES. The GAO found that the FCC took no enforcement action in 83% of the cases it closed from 2003 through 2006 -- and that the agency's databases were so disorganized that the auditors couldn't ascertain its reasons for not taking action.
In about 8% of the closed cases, the GAO said it couldn't even determine whether any enforcement action was taken.
This represents just a small fraction of the total angst that's out there...
Broadcasters and consumer and activist groups have grumbled for years that the FCC's complaint process is slow and confusing. CHRIS MURRAY, senior counsel for CONSUMERS UNION, said the GAO report understated the problem because most people don't take time to complain to the FCC. "This represents just a small fraction of the total angst that's out there, and ... even given this is just a small piece of the picture, it's pretty bleak. It should make policymakers question whether it's a good idea to take state enforcement out of the game."
FCC Chairman KEVIN J. MARTIN, who took over in MARCH 2005, said the agency already had improved procedures to address the GAO's concerns. "Since I became Chairman, the Enforcement Bureau is responding to 100% of consumer complaints," Martin said in a written statement. He did not address the GAO's claim about difficulty in determining why most of the 39,000 cases, out of 46,000 investigations, had been closed. But in a 109-page response on its website, the FCC contended that the GAO report was flawed.
The FCC said there was a simple reason most of its investigations were closed: The company involved was found to have complied with regulations. It determined the reasons by examining notes in its databases and its paper files. The FCC said that in only about 3% of cases was it unable to explain why an investigation was dismissed.