If you are still riddled with telemarketing calls, slamming, cramming or other billing issues from your phone, cable or Internet company, take heart. Better help is available.
The Federal Communications Commission announced this week that it has revamped its consumer complaint center to make reporting problems easier.
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm behind Consumer Reports, applauds the effort and advised the FCC on its new online center.
“This site will make it easier for people to file and track complaints about problems like annoying robocalls and fraudulent charges, and it will help the FCC spot emerging trends in the marketplace,” said Delara Derakhashani, policy counsel for Consumers Union.
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The new one-stop shop at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov is an improvement over the old system, where information was spread out and hard to find, she said.
Complaints will have a tracking number so consumers can follow them as they move through the agency. The website points consumers to tabs on each of its major areas of complaints, such as those related to service providers for phones, television, radio and the Internet. After a review, the complaint may be sent to the service provider, which has 30 days to respond.
While complaints can’t always be directly resolved, they can lead in aggregate to fines and lawsuits by the FCC.
The center will also share its complaint data on the website. For example, in the past three months, it has received more than 16,500 complaints on telephone service and more than 6,800 on Internet service.
There were more than 7,000 telemarketing complaints, including violations of the National Do Not Call Registry, and more than 4,000 robocall complaints. (Robocalls, or unsolicited recorded telemarketing calls, are illegal.)
“Greater transparency will give the public a better view of consumer concerns and how the FCC addresses them. We’ve put a platform in place to provide more data and information, allowing consumers to help us help them more quickly and efficiently,” an FCC spokesman said, speaking on background.
Derakhashani said the data will help root out problems and raise the bar for companies.
The Texas Public Utility Commission also has a consumer complaint arm with around 20 staff members in its customer protection division, spokesman Terry Hadley said.
The PUC takes complaints on telephone service, electric providers and utilities at www.puc.texas.gov/consumer.
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the PUC handled more than 14,300 complaints — 7,250 filed against electricity providers, 5,035 related to do-not-call issues and 2,100 about telecom companies, according to a recent PUC report.
Almost half the telecom complaints and roughly 25 percent of the electricity provider complaints resulted in monetary refunds, the report said. The agency reported an average refund of $255 for electricity provider complaints and $328 for telecom complaints.
The state has its own do-not-call list that’s separate from the national program.
“It’s an extra layer of support,” Hadley said. “Since there’s no charge and fee to enroll online, it’s worth the extra effort.”
Complaints about unwanted calls are sometimes passed to the FCC, but if the caller is based in Texas, the PUC enforcement division can act on it or the complaint could be turned over to the state attorney general, Hadley said.
The state do-not-call list is good for three years before consumers must re-enroll. The national list is permanent.
So stop complaining to your friends and family about your service providers and go where you might be able to do something about it.
Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays.
Where to complain
FCC Consumer Help Center. Go to consumercomplaints.fcc.gov or call 888-225-5322 for complaints on telephone, television, radio and the Internet services.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Go to www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint or call 855-411-2372 for complaints on mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts and credit reports.
Consumer Product Safety Commission. Go to www.SaferProducts.gov or call 800-638-2772 for complaints on products. You can search the site for complaint reports and product recalls.
Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant. Go to www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov for complaints on identity theft, credit and debt, job scams, online shopping and other areas. It includes scam alerts and a chat feature.
Texas Public Utility Commission. Go to www.puctexas.gov or call 888-782-8477 for complaints about electricity providers, telephone companies or utilities in Texas and do-not-call violations.