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Exclusive: iPhone Woes Revealed In FCC, FTC Consumer Complaints

Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by InformationWeek show that the Federal Communications Commission has received 72 complaints about Apple's iPhone since 2009, mostly involving AT&T. There are 450 Federal Trade Commission complaints.

Whether consumer complaints encourage such inquiries is questionable. Many of the complaints submitted to the FCC and FTC are poorly reasoned. Some are misdirected at Apple and some reflect a poor choice by the complainant rather than corporate misconduct.

A recent complaint of this sort about a water-damaged MacBook Pro was sent directly to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He reportedly replied: "It sounds like you're just looking for someone to get mad at other than yourself."

Quite a few of the complaints sent to the FCC and FTC appear to deserve the same reply.

The FCC provided InformationWeek with 72 complaints related to Apple's iPhone. In doing so, the agency said, "Please be advised that the FCC receives many complaints and comments that do not involve violations of the Communications Act or any FCC rule or order. Thus, the existence of a complaint filed against a particular company does not necessarily indicate any wrongdoing by the company."

It should also be noted that both the FCC and the FTC have almost certainly received complaints about Google, Microsoft, and other large communications technology companies.

What's most noteworthy about the complaints provided by the FCC is that the majority of them take issue with AT&T as much, if not more than, Apple. To read through the complaints is to be struck how much ill-will has been generated by Apple's decision to make the iPhone available exclusively through AT&T in the U.S.

A number of the complaints sent to the FCC want the government to take action against Apple for restricting its iPhone to AT&T, for refusing to allow Adobe's Flash technology on the iPhone and for refusing to approve certain iPhone applications, such as the Google Voice app (since released as a Web app).

One complaint from August 19, 2009 says, "I would ask that everyone read the article today in The Wall Street Journal, ‘Why AT&T Killed Google Voice.' The exclusive that AT&T has brokered with Apple is already hurting efficiency, competitiveness, and innovation. To go further by not allowing Google Voice as an application is truly a crime. If technological improvements are not allowed because it [sic] cuts into the margins of another company, then the FCC is NOT acting in the interest of consumers."

Another complaint from August 8, 2009 says, "I am a Google Voice user. I am also an iPhone owner, using AT&T for my cell service. Apple/AT&T have blocked iPhone users from accessing a Google app to use Google voice effectively on the iPhone in order to allow AT&T to maximize call and SMS message fees it can charge users. I believe this is an unfair use of Apple's/AT&T's monopoly power over the iPhone market. I understand the FCC is already investigating. I want to register my dissatisfaction with the current marketing practice of Apple/AT&T in prohibiting consumers from using lawful, technologically beneficial software like Google Voice for the purpose of maximizing their own profit."

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