Rockefeller, Klobuchar Statement on Release of GAO Report on FCC's Need to Improve Oversight of Wireless Phone Service

December 10, 2009

Feature Image 5WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion, issued the following statement today regarding the release of a report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that the “FCC Needs to Improve Oversight of Wireless Phone Service.”

“It’s a real problem to me that millions of consumers are unaware of their options when they experience problems with their wireless phone service, and that the FCC has inadequately protected those consumers who have sought the agency’s help,” said Chairman Rockefeller. “The FCC can – and must – do more to make sure consumer concerns are resolved by wireless carriers and oversee the wireless industry with a greater focus on consumer protection. While I am encouraged that the FCC has recently begun to focus on this problem and has sought comment on how to address some of the issues highlighted in the GAO report, it is time for the agency to take real action to better protect wireless consumers.”

“While there was some good news in the report, I remain concerned that Early Termination Fees, or ETFs, unfairly prevent consumers from switching providers, even when they are dissatisfied with their service or move their work or home to areas with inadequate service,” said Klobuchar. “I will continue to fight for ETF reform and I remain committed to bringing more competition and pro-consumer measures to the wireless industry.”

The GAO report found that 34 percent of wireless telephone consumers do not know where they could go if they had a problem with their wireless provider. The GAO found fault not only with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) outreach and education efforts to inform consumers about the FCC’s consumer protection role but also with the FCC’s oversight and handling of the informal complaints it receives. Without rules and regulations to monitor and properly analyze these complaints, the GAO found that the FCC may not be aware of emerging trends in consumer problems or whether its rules or regulations are being violated and cannot ensure that consumers are being adequately protected. The GAO also found that the FCC could be doing more to work with states in developing an effective regulatory system to protect wireless consumers.