International Consumer Protection

econsumer.gov

The FTC's International Consumer Protection program promotes enforcement, policy development, and technical assistance to protect consumers in the U.S. and abroad.

Overview

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.

Enforcement

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:

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.

Policy Development

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:

OECD

  • Committee on Consumer Policy of the OECD,

Key OECD Documents

APEC

  • APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group and its Data Privacy Subgroup
  • APEC Telecommunication and Information Working Group.

United Nations

  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Guidelines for Consumer Protection,

Internet Governance

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

Technical Assistance

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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Outreach

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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FTC International Policy Documents

Consumer Protection

FTC Staff Comment on Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner's Discussion Paper (October 2016)

FTC Letter to ICANN Regarding the Commission’s Consumer Protection Concerns regarding gLTDs (Dec. 16, 2011)

Privacy and Data Security

Letter from Chairwoman Edith Ramirez to Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice-President in Charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Expressing the Federal Trade Commission’s Commitment to Protecting  Consumer Privacy and the Enforcement of the Safe Harbor Program

Privacy Enforcement and Safe Harbor: Comments of the FTC Staff to European Commission Review of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework (November 12, 2013)
FTC Staff Comment on the United Kingdom Department of Business Innovation & Skills Consultation, Civil Enforcement Remedies: Consultation on extending the range of remedies available to public enforcers of consumer law (December 31, 2012)
FTC Staff Comments on the European Commission's Green Paper Titled "Towards an Integrated European Market for Card, Internet and Mobile Payments" (April 10, 2012)
FTC Staff Comment on the United Kingdom Department of Business Innovation & Skills Consultation, Empowering and Protecting Consumers: Consultation on institutional changes for provision of consumer information, advice, education, advocacy and enforcement (September 27, 2011)
Annex A to Staff Comment
FTC Staff Comments on the Modernization of the Council of Europe's Convention 108 (March 9, 2011)
FTC Staff Comments on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Do Not Call Case Study (February 16, 2011)
FTC Staff Comments on the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Spam Case Study (February 15, 2011)
FTC Staff Comments on South Africa’s Proposed Consumer Protection Regulations, 2010 (January 31, 2011)
FTC Staff Comments submitted to the European Commission (EC) in connection with the EC data protection framework consultation (January 13, 2011)
Comments by the FTC staff and the DHS Privacy Office on the Joint Proposal for International Standards on the Protection of Privacy with regard to the Processing Of Personal Data (the "Madrid Resolution") (August 10, 2010)
U.S. SAFE WEB Act: The First Three Years, A Report to Congress (2009)
U.S. SAFE WEB Requests for Information and Investigative Assistance: Information Sheet for Foreign Authorities
Comment by staff of the FTC and the DHS Privacy Office dated May 14, 2009 on Version 3 of the Joint Proposal for a Draft of International Standards on the Protection of Privacy with regard to the processing of Personal Data
U.S. Federal Trade Commission Staff Response to the U.K. Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Law Reform's Consumer Law Review: Call for Evidence (April 2008)
U.S. Federal Trade Commission Staff Comments to the European Commission on its Draft RFID Recommendation (April 2008)