Statement of Commissioner Mozelle W. Thompson

in the Matter of
U.S. Consumer Protection Agency

File No. X980085

The Commission voted to approve filing in federal district court a consent agreement that settles allegations against the defendant, Robert M. Oliver, doing business as U.S. Consumer Protection Agency, and Consumer Protection Agency of Bay County. The complaint alleged that Robert M. Oliver violated both Section 5 of the FTC Act by deceptively implying an affiliation with the U.S. government and other local governments, and the Commission's Franchise Rule by failing to provide important disclosures, including required important earnings information. Specifically, Robert Oliver offered to consumers over the Internet phony franchise opportunities to purchase their own local "U.S. Consumer Protection Agency." In effect, the defendant falsely held himself out as a government agency and offered that sham opportunity to others.

The order -- which the defendant accepted in a settlement agreement -- is directed at the very heart of Robert Oliver's deception. It prohibits him in any way from masquerading as a government official. In particular, the order permanently bars the defendant from misrepresenting that he is affiliated with any governmental entity, and from using words and visual representations in connection with a commercial activity that are commonly suggestive of a government entity. I believe these provisions provide reasonable fencing in relief to prevent future violations by the defendant, who has already demonstrated a proclivity for acting under the guise of government authority in derogation of the important public responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments. Further, I believe that this strong relief will both serve to deter others from engaging in similar egregious conduct and have the indirect benefit of preserving consumers' confidence in bona fide governmental entities. For these reasons, I voted in favor of the order in this matter.