Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Protecting Consumers

From the FCC


The FCC has issued a Notice of Inquiry on whether there are additional opportunities to protect and empower American consumers by ensuring sufficient access to relevant information about communications services.   

  As communications technologies and services become more essential, and the communications market more complex, information is key to consumer protection and empowerment. The Commission seeks comment from communications service providers, academic researchers, consumer groups and third-party analysts on how best to ensure consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions in the communications marketplace.

  The Commission’s approach to information disclosure issues has traditionally focused on the formatting of consumer bills.  This is relevant only after a consumer has already selected a service provider, and has been restricted to wireline voice and wireless services. Today’s Notice asks questions about the information available to consumers at each stage of the purchasing process:  (1) choosing a provider, (2) choosing a service plan, (3) managing use of the service plan, and (4) deciding whether and when to switch an existing provider or plan for all communications services, including wireline voice and wireless services, as well as broadband and subscription video (cable and satellite).  

  This Notice also seeks particular comment on cost-effective best practices in information disclosure from within the communications sector – as well as familiar examples for other areas, such as nutrition labeling on food products, fuel efficiency for automobiles, energy efficiency for household appliances, and rates and fees for credit cards.  Comments will be due 45 days after release of the Notice of Inquiry and replies will be due 15 days thereafter.

  Action by the Commission, August 27, 2009, by Notice of Inquiry (FCC 09-68).  Chairman Genachowski, Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn and Baker with Chairman Genachowski, Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn and Baker issuing separate statements.

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