The Federal Trade Commission and members of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) have announced several initiatives to combat cross-border fraud. The network conducted a two-day training session for investigators from member countries, covering cross-border consumer-related issues such as pyramid schemes, Internet fraud, and deceptive mail scams. In addition, the network unveiled new developments for its Web site, www.econsumer.gov, where consumers can file cross-border e-commerce complaints that ICPEN partners can access. One involves a pilot project that allows consumers from around the world to have their complaints resolved by providers of alternative dispute resolution services. The second development is that the Web site, which has functioned in English, French, German, and Spanish, is now available in Korean.
“Cross-border fraud continues to be a growing problem, hurting consumers and diluting consumer confidence in the global marketplace,” said Commissioner Mozelle W. Thompson, head of the U.S. delegation to the ICPEN meeting. “The only way to combat it effectively is by cooperating with our foreign counterparts and using international networks like ICPEN. These cooperative law enforcement efforts tell fraudsters that they cannot hide from the law by setting up shop in one country and targeting consumers in another.”
“The development of the Internet and improvements in telecommunications permit fraud to be perpetrated on a large scale – not just across state borders, but also across national ones,” said Chairman Timothy J. Muris. “Combating cross-border fraud requires international cooperation among consumer protection agencies. I am pleased that the Commission continues to advance its “Five-Point Plan to Combat Cross-Border Fraud” through its work with the ICPEN.”
The ICPEN announced new features for its Web site, www.econsumer.gov. The site, originally launched in April 2001, allows consumers to file cross-border e-commerce complaints, access consumer education materials, and contact consumer protection authorities around the world. ICPEN members announced the launch of the econsumer.gov ADR Pilot Project. As part of this project, consumers who visit the Web site can opt to have their cross-border complaint referred to a provider of alternative dispute resolution (or ADR) services. That ADR provider will try to help resolve the consumer’s complaint for free, or at very low cost. Participating providers include the Better Business Bureau, SquareTrade, the Electronic Commerce Promotion Council of Japan (Ecom), and the Korea Consumer Protection Board. “Consumers now have a way to resolve their merchant complaints, no matter where the seller is located. This dispute resolution tool will provide a major boost to cross-border consumer confidence,” said Commissioner Thompson.
Moreover, visitors to www.econsumer.gov, who have been able to access the site’s data in English, French, German, and Spanish, can now also access the data in Korean, thanks to the cooperation of the Korea Consumer Protection Board. According to Mr. Lee, Byung-Joo, Chief of the KCPB’s Cyber Consumer Center, “e-commerce consumer issues are a priority at the KCPB. It is our great honor to launch the Korean-language version of econsumer.gov, which we expect will raise interest among Korean consumers toward that site and other ICPEN activities.”
The project to train consumer protection investigators from ICPEN countries was initiated earlier this year after ICPEN members approved it at their last meeting in Port Douglas, Australia. Presenters included representatives from the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission, Canada’s Competition Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission. They helped train investigators from 16 countries.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
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