FTC Staff Sends Warning Letters to Online Marketers Claiming to Offer Legitimate Substitutes for International Driving Permits

Only AAA and AATA Can Issue International Driving Permits to Lawful Holders of U.S. Drivers Licenses, Agency Says

For Release

Nineteen online marketers received letters from the Federal Trade Commission staff warning that they may be breaking the law by selling documents that they are falsely promoting as legitimate substitutes for International Driving Permits. The staff letters say the marketers’ ads may make deceptive claims that violate the FTC Act. 

Consumer groups and state and local law enforcers have charged that in some cases, the documents are being promoted as legitimate identification to undocumented immigrants in the United States. 
In the letters, FTC staff stated that the marketers’ websites appear to be making a variety of false claims about the document they are selling, including that it:

  • establishes a person’s right to drive in foreign countries;
  • carries an official status or is recognized as such;
  • meets the requirements of any of the United Nations Conventions on Road Traffic;
  • serves the same purpose as an International Driving Permit;
  •  constitutes proof that a person’s domestic driver’s license is valid;
  • allows persons to drive in foreign countries without experiencing difficulties caused by language barriers; 
  • fulfills an automobile rental company’s requirement that renters possess an International Driving Permit; 
  • can be used to purchase automobile insurance; and
  • can be used as an identification document in the same ways a person can use a government-issued photo-identification document.

In the letters, FTC staff advises the marketers to review their websites to identify all deceptive or misleading statements, and to notify FTC staff if they intend to remove or revise any claims. 

An International Driving Permit, or IDP, is an official document created by international treaties that translates a domestic driver’s license into several foreign languages.  Under these treaties, residents of a particular country must obtain an IDP from a governmental agency or organization designated by that country.  An IDP issued by an agency or organization designated by a country’s government is the only official translation of a person’s domestic driver’s license.  No document issued by any other organization, individual or company meets the requirements set forth in these treaties.  The U.S. government has designated only two organizations – the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance – to issue IDPs to lawful holders of U.S. driver’s licenses. 

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2180
STAFF CONTACT:
Lemuel Dowdy
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2981