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Records Reveal AT&T Wireless Leads Pack in Customer Complaints

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Contact: Janee Briesemeister, (512) 477-4431,
ext. 117

Government Records Reveal AT&T Wireless Has Four Times as Many Customer Complaints as Verizon
Data Obtained Through FOIA Request; FCC Keeps Statistics Secret

(Washington, D.C.) – Records obtained by Consumers Union through the Freedom of Information Act show AT&T Wireless has the highest number of complaints per subscriber of the top six wireless companies, and that consumers in general complained most about billing problems, service quality and transferring their phone numbers when switching companies.
“The data is significant because the Federal Communications Commission does not report complaints so that consumers can look at each company’s track record when shopping for cell phone service,” said Janee Briesemeister, campaign manager for EscapeCellHell.org, a project of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
Of the more than 20,000 complaints filed in 2003, AT&T Wireless ranked first among the top six carriers both on a total complaint basis and in complaints adjusted for market share. Verizon had the fewest complaints per subscriber of the major carriers, which is consistent with Consumer Reports’ February 2004 analysis that found the company at the top in the 12 metro areas surveyed.
For all of the six national cell phone companies, consumers complained the most about billing problems. Complaints about transferring their phone numbers, service quality, contracts and marketing were close behind.
“Consumers want to know which companies are generating the most complaints about billing, service and coverage before they sign a long-term contract,” Briesemeister said. “Companies will have an incentive to improve if they know consumers can check out their service records.”
Even though the FCC – which currently is the only regulatory agency overseeing wireless service – fields consumer complaints, it does not disclose that information to help shoppers make informed decisions. Consumers Union is pushing legislation in several states, most notably California, that would give state regulators, not just the FCC, the ability to deal with customer complaints about the wireless industry.
View the specific complaint data.(PDF).