FCC Change Allows Consumers to Bring ACS Accessibility Complaints Directly to Companies

In a Public Notice released last week, the FCC announced new procedures for consumers to file complaints against companies to allege violations of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“CVAA”), the goal of which is to ensure that people with disabilities have access to advanced communications services (“ACS”). Generally, ACS is one-way VoIP, electronic messaging (email, text, IM) and interoperable video conferencing.

Under the new procedures, a consumer can initiate the complaint process by contacting the company directly, or seeking assistance from the FCC’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau through its Disabilities Rights Office by submitting a request for dispute assistance, which is required before the consumer may file an informal complaint. Separately, the consumer may file a formal complaint with the FCC without the need for a request for dispute assistance. A more detailed explanation of the new complaint procedures is available on the FCC’s website .

The new complaint process marks a departure from previous FCC procedure, which required the consumer to file grievances only with the FCC, which would then serve as an intermediary between the consumer and the company. Thus, it is important for companies that offer ACS to be alert to complaints that may come directly from consumers in addition to correspondence from the FCC. The company’s designated FCC contact should also be a senior employee who can recognize the impact of a request for dispute assistance, or informal or formal complaint regarding ACS and the timelines and documentation necessary to respond to such complaints.

The new procedures are part of the FCC’s ongoing effort to implement the CVAA, with the latest round of regulations going into effect on October 8, 2013.