FCC opens its complaint database to public view

Telephone service, wired and wireless, accounts for the lion's share of complaints

People are mad about a lot of things, and now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping put some numbers against the general stirrings of unrest. It is putting its complaint database online, more or less.

The agency -- which regulates telephone, broadcast, cable, and other communications media -- today launched its new online Consumer Complaint Data Center, which it says will provide "greater transparency into consumer complaints received by the Commission."

“We take very seriously the input we get from American consumers and the issues they bring to our attention,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.  “Greater transparency of our consumer complaint data further empowers consumers and provides the public – as well as communications providers – with greater insight into consumers’ concerns.”

Unlike ConsumerAffairs and other review sites, the FCC isn't providing the actual text of consumers' gripes, but it is breaking them down by date, location, category, and other criteria, and it is even providing tools on the site to let consumers create their own visualizations of the data -- like the graph above, which shows the relative number of complaints received per category.

Telephone service tops the list

That graph clearly shows consumers are in a dither over telephone service, so we broke that down a bit more to see just which phone issues are causing the most problems.

Not counting Do Not Call complaints, billing (for both wired and wireless) takes the biggest piece of the pie, followed by availability issues.

The FCC says it uses the complaints to help it make policy decisions, help companies resolve issues, and track trends so as to find areas that need enforcement crackdowns.

"This launch is another step in the broader effort of the FCC to streamline its consumer complaint processing and make more detailed, real-time data available to the public, the FCC said in a press release.

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