The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced today that representatives of both commissions have signed two agreements to facilitate enhanced law enforcement cooperation in the consumer protection area between the United States and Australia. The agreements were announced at a workshop on Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 20.
With the emergence of the Internet, consumers are engaging in cross-border transactions more extensively than ever, and there is consequently a greater need for cross-border law enforcement cooperation, as acknowledged in the OECD Guidelines on Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce. These two agreements will enable both parties to better combat fraudulent, misleading and unfair commercial conduct in each other's jurisdiction.
The first agreement -- the FTC-ACCC Cooperation Agreement ("cooperation agreement")-- provides for enhanced cooperation and information sharing between the FTC and ACCC. The cooperation agreement will strengthen ties between the two nations on consumer protection matters and enhance cross-border cooperation in the consumer protection area. The cooperation agreement is a "best efforts" agreement that does not require legislative changes in either country. Its purpose is to increase law enforcement assistance between the U.S. and Australia.
The cooperation agreement includes three key provisions:
- Notification of Enforcement Activities: The FTC and ACCC will use their best efforts to notify each other of consumer protection enforcement activities that might affect the agencies' mutual interests.
- Cooperation and Coordination: The agencies will use their best efforts, where appropriate, to assist each other in gathering information and coordinating law enforcement activities.
- Exchange of Information: The agreement encourages the exchange of consumer protection information for law enforcement purposes consistent with each country's statutes and rules.
The second agreement -- the Consumer Sentinel Agreement -- permits the ACCC to participate in the FTC's Consumer Sentinel system, a database of consumer complaint data which is already used by over 250 law enforcement agencies. The ACCC will be able to obtain and enter information, strengthening the ability of both Australia and the United States to prosecute consumer fraud. This is the second country with which the FTC has entered into such an agreement; the Commission has already approved the sharing of information with Canadian law enforcement agencies.
The Federal Trade Commission vote to approve the agreements was 5-0.
A copy of the cooperation agreement is available on the ACCC's web site: http://www.accc.gov.au. Copies of both agreements are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
- Media Contact:
FTC Office of Public Affairs
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FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection
International Unit, ACCC
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