The FTC's International Consumer Protection program promotes enforcement, policy development, and technical assistance to protect consumers in the U.S. and abroad.
Dynamic changes in trade, international telecommunications, and Internet-enabled functions have unleashed unprecedented opportunities for consumers and innovators. These advances also present unprecedented challenges: how do we protect consumers from significant harm while maximizing economic benefit and consumer choice?
The FTC embraces these challenges, working internationally to protect American consumers from both traditional and emerging threats while embracing innovation. From internationally mailed sweepstakes promotions to Internet-enabled frauds that impersonate well-known companies and government agencies, U.S. consumers are confronted with novel and at time deeply unsettling challenges in an increasingly global and on-line environment.
This is why the FTC’s international efforts are more critical than ever. We work with more than 100 foreign consumer protection and privacy authorities around the world on enforcement and policy matters through formal and informal arrangements. Through this work, the FTC’s international consumer protection staff help build and sustain alliances that expand the reach of our enforcement efforts and enhance protections for our consumers.
In the area of consumer protection and privacy enforcement, the FTC relies on four key tools: (1) information sharing; (2) investigative assistance; (3) cross-border jurisdictional authority; and (4) enforcement relationships. The US SAFE WEB Act, which allows the FTC to share investigative material and issue compulsory process on behalf of foreign consumer protection counterparts, supports many of these tools.
Our engagement in multinational consumer protection and privacy groups also advances the FTC’s enforcement mission. We are active in these groups:
- Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),
- International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN),
- Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network (UCENET),
- International Mass Marketing Enforcement Network, and
- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum
The FTC also supports econsumer.gov, a project sponsored by ICPEN and consumer agencies in more than 60 economies. Consumers can use econsumer.gov to report cross-border complaints. Qualified enforcement agencies can use those complaints to investigate fraud.
International enforcement of privacy measures is another FTC priority. Notably, the FTC enforces the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework. Our international work in the privacy area complements the FTC’s domestic enforcement and advances U.S. cross-border trade.
For policy work on e-commerce and emerging technologies – two areas with a sizeable impact on U.S. consumers – the FTC participates in the following groups:
- Committee on Consumer Policy of the OECD,
Key OECD Documents
- Ecommerce Guidelines: http://www.oecd.org/sti/consumer/ECommerce-Recommendation-2016.pdf and
- Cross Border Fraud Guidelines: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/industry-and-services/oecd-guidelines-for-protecting-consumers-from-fraudulent-and-deceptive-commercial-practices-across-borders_9789264103573-en-fr
- Working Party on Security and Privacy in the Digital Economy of the OECD
- APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group and its Data Privacy Subgroup
- APEC Telecommunication and Information Working Group.
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Guidelines for Consumer Protection,
Privacy related issues also have a significant international dimension. To enhance the protections and safeguards for U.S. consumers, the FTC enforces the European Union’s Privacy Shield Framework, under which U.S. companies certify that they comply with the Privacy Shield principles.
The also FTC participates in prominent privacy networks, including
- Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN)
- International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC)
- Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) Forum, and
- APEC Cross Border Privacy Enforcement Arrangement
The FTC’s technical assistance program helps foreign agencies implement laws and policies that protect both U.S. and foreign consumers. By promoting consumer trust in the marketplace, these programs can help support sustained economic development and competitive market economies. Since 2007, the FTC has provided technical assistance on consumer and privacy issues to agencies in more than 100 countries.
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Our international staff are also frequent speakers at international privacy and consumer protection conferences. Through these engagements, the FTC promotes comprehensive and practical approaches to privacy and data security.
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