The number of complaints against cable and satellite TV service jumped 346 percent in the first three months this year compared to the same period last year, according to a report released by the Federal Communications Commission.
Cable/Sat complaints 1Q 2009 1Q 2008 % change DTV transition 170 n/a Service 344 176 95% Marketing & Advertising 381 n/a Billing & Rates 583 238 145% Programming 2,635 380 593% Total 4,113 923 346%
While that may sound high, cable and satellite TV services received the fewest number of complaints compared to other telecom services tracked by the FCC. The agency tracks inquiries and complaints about TV, cable and satellite, wireless and wireline phone services.
During the first quarter 2009, it was TV service with the most complaints, at 188,588, up a whopping 548 percent from the fourth quarter. The FCC cited the nation’s switch to digital TV broadcasts first in February and then delayed till June, which caused confusion and a lot of headache even among consumers unaffected by the change.
In the same period, cable and satellite TV had 4,113 complaints, up 96 percent.
While the FCC compared first quarter figures with the fourth quarter of 2008, I pulled up last year’s first quarter as a comparison. Last year, the FCC registered 923 complaints about cable and satellite TV during the first quarter. This year, the number jumped to 4,113 complaints.
Either there really are more things to complain about when it comes to paid TV or consumers are finally noticing the FCC has a complaint button:
The biggest complaint in 2009 was over programming issues, followed by billing and rates, advertising and then service. In 2008, biggest complaints were in this order: programming, billing and service. Blanks in the chart mean there was not a similar reason for complaint during years.
FCC complaints 4Q08 1Q09 % change Radio/TV 29,108 188,558 548% Wireline 27,160 36,427 34% Cable/Satellite 2,097 4,113 96% Wireless 12,464 16,142 30% All 70,836 245,241 246%
But the number of complaints during the first quarter this year was small compared with some other industries the FCC tracks. Cable and satellite TV collected 4,113 complaints, but wireless quadrupled that number, to 16,142.
The wireless industry got a huge number of complaints related to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which handles the Do Not Call List and junk faxes. Some 11,843 consumers filed a complaint with the FCC. Billing and rates issue came in a distant second, with 3,019 complaints.
Wireline phone services had even more complaints. Many revolved around the phone bills — multiple charges, surprise charges (cramming), unknown charges (slamming). But the most complaints were related to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which protects against unwanted callers and junk faxes through the Do Not Call list.
Lots more numbers are available in the FCC’s report, “Quarterly report on informal consumer inquiries and complaints.”