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Primary Jurisdiction Referrals

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Released: January 30, 2014


Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th St., S.W.


Washington, D.C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 14-99

January 30, 2014



This notice provides guidance to parties seeking to bring a dispute involving claims under the
Communications Act of 1934, as amended (Act), as the result of a court referral pursuant to the primary
jurisdiction doctrine. Courts invoke the primary jurisdiction doctrine where the court has jurisdiction
over the case, but the case requires the resolution of issues which, under a regulatory scheme, have
been placed in the hands of an administrative agency. See, e.g., Allnet Communication Service, Inc. v.
National Exchange Carrier Association
, Inc., 965 F.2d 1118 (D.C. Cir. 1992).
The means by which the Commission handles matters referred by a court pursuant to the primary
jurisdiction doctrine may vary according to the procedural history and nature of the issues in the
referred matter. For example, primary jurisdiction referrals in cases involving common carriers or
utilities generally are appropriately filed as complaints with the Enforcement Bureau pursuant to
Sections 208 or 224 of the Act. 47 U.S.C. §§ 208, 224. There may be circumstances, however, in which
this approach is not appropriate and in which a petition for declaratory ruling to terminate a
controversy or remove uncertainty (under Section 1.2 of the FCC’s rules, 47 C.F.R. § 1.2) is a better
vehicle than a formal complaint proceeding.
Parties to a case in which a court has made a primary jurisdiction referral involving claims under the Act
are strongly encouraged to contact the Market Disputes Resolution Division of the Enforcement Bureau
for guidance before filing any pleadings or otherwise proceeding before the Commission in such
referral. Contacting the Market Disputes Resolution Division before proceeding pursuant to a primary
jurisdiction referral will ensure that the matter is properly effectuated and filed, and will avoid delay and
unnecessary expense.
For further information, please contact the Market Disputes Resolution Division at 202-418-7330.
Issued by: P. Michele Ellison, Chief, Enforcement Bureau

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