Every call and email from aggrieved viewers gets response, and viewers have gotten $30 million back

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations is making a bigger bet on the NBC Responds/Telemundo Responde units that win back cash for viewers who feel they’ve been ripped off. Telemundo station WTMO Orlando launched a Responde consumer investigative unit April 11, and KTDO El Paso will launch one in mid-May.

Telemundo stations in Sacramento and Fresno are on schedule to do so in 2020.

Launched in 2014, the NBC Responds/Telemundo Responde units are “charged with speaking up for those who may have been wronged,” according to NBCUniversal. Working with the units’ Consumer Investigative Center producers, who answer every email and call from a local market, the units have answered more than 350,000 consumer tips across 18 markets. NBCUniversal Owned Stations said they’ve recovered more than $30 million for consumers.

“Lack of information, resources or limited English-speaking abilities should not stand in the way of consumers getting the information or services they need. I am pleased that consumers in Orlando and El Paso will be able to call on our Telemundo stations for help,” said Valari Staab, president, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations.

Staab told B&C the consumer units create “a stronger connection between the viewer and the station,” and are a “pillar” in the group’s strategy to improve its stations.

“It’s a competitive advantage the stations can easily point to and promote,” she added.

The Consumer Investigative Center is in Dallas, and each local Responds/Responde team has two or three staffers. All calls and emails come into the Dallas unit, which launched in 2014 and has around two dozen people. “It’s a busy operation--they’re solving problems every day,” said Staab. “We couldn’t make the promise of answering every email and call without the Consumer Investigative Center.”

Consumer Action, a non-profit organization that champions underrepresented consumers nationwide, announced that the NBC Responds/Telemundo Responde consumer units won the 2019 Consumer Excellence Award in the media category. “The NBC Responds/Telemundo Responde units deploy a remarkable level of resources to assist consumers who feel they have been wronged in the marketplace, and have nowhere else to turn. The NBC and Telemundo stations’ consumer teams answer every call and email they receive and see every consumer complaint and concern through to the end,” said Ken McEldowney, executive director, Consumer Action.

The Telemundo Responde unit launched at Telemundo 31 in Orlando April 11, with Consumer Investigative Reporter Valezka Gil leading the team. Telemundo 48 in El Paso will debut its in mid-May with Annie Tejada as KTDO’s Consumer Investigative Reporter.

“I am very proud of our consumer teams for helping to strengthen our communities through their exceptional work and can’t think of a more fitting honor than Consumer Action’s award to recognize what our teams do every day to help put an end to the headaches that consumers experience by trying to navigate their consumer issues on their own,” said Staab.

Recent Responds/Telemundo Responde stories include a consumer calling WNBC New York’s “Better Get Baquero” unit, which helped her get a Social Security refund she’d been owed, and a multi-year investigation by KXAS-KXTX’s consumer units into a contractor accused of scamming more than 100 homeowners out of thousands of dollars to fix their roofs and homes. The contractor was given eight years in prison. Another one saw KNBC’s “Randy Responds” unit push back on a cable company repeatedly billing a family that lost its home in the Woolsey Fire.

Staab said NBC Owned Stations executives were surprised by the $30 million the units have returned in just five years. “It’s been incredibly successful,” she said.

The NBC and Telemundo owned stations that feature a local Responds/Telemundo Responde unit include: WNBC-WNJU New York, KNBC-KVEA Los Angeles, WMAQ-WSNS Chicago, WCAU-WWSI Philadelphia, KXAS-KXTX Dallas-Fort Worth, WRC Washington, D.C., KNTV-KSTS San Francisco, WBTS-WNEU Boston, WTVJ-WSCV Miami, KNSD San Diego, WVIT Hartford, KTMD Houston, KVDA San Antonio, WKAQ Puerto Rico, KTAZ Phoenix, KTLM McAllen-Harlingen, KBLR Las Vegas, KDEN Denver, WTMO Orlando and KTDO El Paso. 

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