published Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Phillips: Contacting your federal regulators


by Ellen Phillips

Q: I'm so frustrated and aggravated with my cable company's billing practices. For the past three months, they've promised to correct their errors; not only has the company broken these promises, but also usually have made additional mistakes. Surely, consumers have specific recourse with both cable and general utility service regulators here in Tennessee, as well as with those in the federal government. Help, please! -- Isaac Infuriated

A: Dear Mr. Infuriated: I get wound up tighter than a tick just thinking about this issue.

I, too, have almost monthly concerns with some of these service providers (and I use the term service very lightly), although the problems don't occur quite as often now since I regularly report the companies and their little bags of tricks to regulators.

I'm more than happy to supply these names and addresses to help you and way too many of your neighbors, even though the amount of information is such to warrant two columns. Whether complaining via snail mail, e-mail or online complaint forms (I suggest all three), please be sure to first contact the big boss at the company in question.

Maintain your writing trail with all parties to include copies of correspondence, persons who responded, date of reply, any resolution, subsequent steps you take (Never give up!), as well as any and all notes to attempt resolution with the provider. After all, sometimes enough is enough and it's important we speak up against billing practices that may be fraudulent or, at the very least, inexcusable and continual mistakes from companies that make available our electric, telephone, gas, cable, and so forth.

Federal Regulators:

Federal Trade Commission

1. Jon Leibowitz, Chairman, Consumers Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580.

2. John Seeba, Inspector General, same street address.

3. Online complaint form available (www.fcc.gov)

Unfortunately, the FTC no longer takes steps to pounce upon culprits immediately as it did when I first began this line of work. However, the agency keeps records of complaints and steps in when they've received enough to really pique their interest. I always contact the FTC when problems occur with any company that I'm unable to fix myself.

Federal Communications Commission

1. Julius Genachowski, Chairman, 445 Twelfth St., SW, Washington, DC 20554 (Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov)

2. P. Michele Ellison, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief, Room 7-C723, same street address

(To be continued next week with Tennessee regulatory agencies...)

Tax Tip: Folks who use the standard deduction instead of itemizing can deduct up to $500 for property taxes. For those filing jointly, deduct $1,000. (This tax break is only for 2009, unless Congress renews the breather for next year.)

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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