There are two primary methods by which to notify the
Enforcement Bureau of local telephone competition and other common-carrier
market rule violations. One method is to informally notify the Bureau about
violations. The second method is to file a formal complaint pursuant to
Section 208 of the Communications Act.
Persons who do not wish to file a formal complaint, but
who wish to inform the Bureau of evidence that a violation of local
competition (or other common carrier market) requirements has occurred
so that the Bureau may decide to initiate an investigation, if appropriate,
may contact Theresa Z. Cavanaugh, Deputy Chief of the
While you don't need to spend a lot of time or money
putting information together in advance, when you contact the staff, it does
help to provide as much factual information concerning the alleged violation
as possible, and to be able to substantiate your claims. Documentary
materials (copies of letters, e-mails, etc.), or testimonial evidence in the
form of sworn affidavits, is particularly helpful. It is also useful if you
can identify particular provisions of the statute or the rules that you
believe have been violated. The more specific you can be, the faster the
Enforcement Bureau can determine if enforcement action is warranted. Keep in
mind, though, that this process does not require any ultimate decision by the FCC.
Formal Section 208 Complaints
Persons interested in filing a formal Section 208
complaint alleging violation of a local competition rule should take the
Call Us First.
If you are contemplating
filing a formal complaint, we strongly encourage you to contact the staff in
Market Disputes Resolution Division
before filing. You may contact
Lisa Griffin, Deputy Division Chief,
at 202-418-7330. There are many advantages to contacting the staff
before filing a complaint. The staff has stepped up its efforts to mediate
disputes between industry participants before a complaint is filed. In many
cases, the staff can discuss the dispute together with the potential
complainant and the potential defendant and help facilitate a private
settlement acceptable to both even before the filing of a complaint.
Mediation does not work in every case, but you might be surprised (or perhaps
not) how often the stonewalling and unsupportable arguments disappear when
Commission staff is in the room. Most importantly, the mediation approach
often results in quick resolution of disputes in a way that better fits the
business needs of the companies. And, indeed, the mediation process is a
prerequisite before the staff will accept a case on the Accelerated Docket
(see below for more information on the Accelerated Docket). Even if mediation
does not resolve the dispute, talking to the staff first can help answer any
questions you may have concerning procedures, emphasize certain requirements
that must be satisfied, and help focus the key issues in any complaint that is filed.
Read the Rules.
Before filing a formal
complaint, carefully review the procedural rules governing section 208
complaints. These rules are important. The staff follows them carefully and
enforces them. Failure to comply with the rules can result in dismissal of
the complaint. You should feel free to contact the staff to discuss these
procedures and ask any questions. The rules governing
formal complaints (including the procedures governing the Accelerated Docket)
are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at
47 C.F.R. Sections 1.720-1.736 (1999).
For additional information, you may want to look at the FCC's Report
and Order that adopted these rules, which is published in the FCC Record at
12 FCC Rcd 22497 (1997).
The specific rules governing the Accelerated Docket are
published in the FCC Record at
13 FCC Rcd 17018 (1998).
A filing fee
is required for all formal complaints. See
47 C.F.R. section 1.1106.
If you do file a formal
complaint, provide as much factual support for your case as possible. This
can be in the form of sworn affidavits, documentary evidence, etc. Do not
assume that you will be able to engage in lengthy discovery after you file
your complaint in order to develop the facts.
Not every dispute involving
local competition (or other market-related issues) is appropriate for a formal
complainants should take a hard look at potential cases and bring us cases that
really matter. Our resources are finite, and the industry needs to use
discretion in filing complaints if you want us to be there when it really
counts. For our part, in an effort to be able to tackle local competition
complaints quickly when they are filed, we have made great strides in reducing
the number of complaints pending before the agency. We have accomplished this
through mediation, settlement, and written decisions. We continue to work on
reducing the number of cases pending before the agency. This will free our
staff to address new competitive disputes as they arise and should reduce
significantly the amount of time it takes to get a complaint resolved.
The Accelerated Docket
is available for selected formal complaints. Because this procedure may lead
to a mini-trial with testimony by witnesses subject to cross-examination,
it is particularly well suited for cases involving difficult factual disputes.
It is designed to lead to a written staff-level decision within 60 days from
the filing of the complaint. Because the Accelerated Docket rules require
staff-supervised pre-filing settlement discussions between the parties, many
disputes are settled without the need to file a formal complaint. In fact,
such settlements are a real success story of the Accelerated Docket procedure.
Please contact the staff if you would like to have a potential complaint
considered for acceptance onto the Accelerated Docket. It is important to
understand that not all cases are suitable for this expedited procedure. The
staff, in its discretion, decides which cases to assign to the Accelerated
Docket. Although you may be disappointed if the staff declines to assign your
particular case to the Accelerated Docket, you always are free to file a
traditional formal complaint and have that complaint adjudicated by the FCC.