United States - FTC Releases International Consumer Complaint Report

The FTC has released its International Consumer Complaints report for 2014, which examines cross-border complaint trends.  The report is based on data from the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN), a secure online database of millions of consumer complaints available only to law enforcement. Of the more than 1.5 million fraud complaints reported in the CSN in 2014, more than 98,000 (or 6%) were about cross-border fraud (excluding do not call registry and identity theft complaints). CSN includes complaints from a variety of sources, including, an initiative of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN).Consumers can use to lodge complaints in English, French, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Spanish and Turkish. In 2014, consumer protection law enforcers from 32 nations participated in the network.

Nearly 49% of the cross-border complaints in CSN were by U.S. consumers complaining about foreign companies (excluding Canada) and nearly 5% involved U.S. consumers complaining about companies located in Canada. Another 18 percent were reported by foreign consumers against companies located in the U.S. or Canada, and 12 percent were by foreign consumers against companies in other foreign locations.Canada was the number one reported foreign company location for calendar year 2014, followed by Nigeria, the United Kingdom, China, Jamaica, India, Mexico, Ghana, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. Because company locations are based on addresses reported by complaining consumers, who may not know where companies are located, the report likely understates the number of cross-border and international complaints.

The leading complaint category for cross-border complaints filed by U.S. consumers was family/friend impostor scams (10%), followed by shop at-home/catalog sales (8%), prizes/sweepstakes/gifts (7%), foreign money offers (6%) and telemarketing practices (5%).  For complaints received solely through (and not through other CSN database sources), the top complaint categories were shop-at-home/catalog sales (18%) followed by computers: equipment/software (8%), credit cards (5%) and internet auction.