FCC's Handling of Formal Complaints Filed Against Common Carriers

RCED-93-83: Published: Mar 18, 1993. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) complaint process that resolves pricing and other disputes between customers and common carriers, focusing on: (1) the length of time it takes FCC to resolve formal complaints against common carriers; (2) FCC compliance with the requirement that it resolve tariff complaints within 12 or 15 months of filing; and (3) the volume and age of formal complaints pending at FCC.

GAO found that: (1) over the last 4 years, FCC closed 465 tariff complaints within 18 months and 256 nontariff complaints within 21 months; (2) FCC did not meet a legal requirement to resolve more than 60 percent of the formal tariff complaints filed during fiscal years 1989 and 1990 or pending at the end of fiscal year (FY) 1992 within 12 to 15 months; (3) FCC used deferrals to extend the completion deadlines for many of the resolved tariff complaints and for almost all of the pending tariff complaints; (4) FCC used deferrals when the disposition of a formal complaint was dependent upon the outcome of another proceeding that involved substantially the same legal and factual issues; (5) FCC believes deferrals are necessary to ensure the fair and orderly conduct of complex interrelated proceedings and the due process rights of the parties; and (6) a significant increase in complaints during FY 1989 and FY 1990 and extensive use of deferrals resulted in an increasing number of unresolved formal complaints, long periods of time to resolve complaints, and a low level of compliance with the Communications Act.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Subcommittee staff advised GAO on September 20, 1994, that they do not anticipate in the foreseeable future changing the legislation as GAO had recommended.

    Matter: In view of the section 208 requirement that FCC complete its tariff investigations within 12 to 15 months of the filing date of a complaint, Congress may wish to consider amending the section to explicitly authorize the FCC deferral policy. This would allow FCC to calculate the complaint resolution time frame from the date that the underlying proceeding is completed, rather than the date on which the complaint is filed.


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