The U.S. Federal Trade Commission Enters Into A Multilateral Agreement Enhances Consumer Protection Cooperation With Chile, Colombia, Mexico, And Peru
The Federal Trade Commission signed a cooperation agreement with the consumer protection authorities of the four Latin American countries —Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru – to combat fraud both inside and outside the United States.
The Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MMOU) promotes cooperation across Latin America, including information-sharing to further investigations and policy development, as well as other types of assistance on cross-border enforcement matters.
“This multilateral MOU with our partners from Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru sends a message of our shared commitment to protect consumers from cross-border fraud, deception, and other illegal practices,” said Maria Coppola, Director of the FTC’s Office of International Affairs. The MOU also offers a blueprint for extending cooperation even further through the region by providing a mechanism for others to join this MOU, which will bolster our efforts to fight fraud wherever it might occur.”
Low-cost online communications allow scammers to target consumers regardless of where they live. The increasingly global nature of commerce—and fraud—poses an enforcement challenge for consumer protection authorities around the world. From 2019 to 2022, fraud reports against companies in these Latin American countries more than doubled, from 6,103 to 12,869. At the same time, total losses reported by consumers skyrocketed—from $39.4 million in 2019 to $237.9 million in 2022. Reports about online shopping were the top complaint during this same period, with losses increasing from $3.8 million in 2019 to $49.5 million in 2022. Social media was the top contact method consumers cited at 41 percent of reports in 2022.
These four countries represent about 225 million people and combined make up the eighth biggest economy in the world.
In signing the MMOU, the FTC and consumer protection authorities in these countries agreed to cooperate in investigations related to violations of consumer protection laws. Specifically, the MMOU encourages participants to:
- Share complaints submitted by consumers – this includes reports placed through SCARS AnyScam.com (SCARS is an FTC Sentinel reporting partner);
- Provide investigative assistance, with appropriate safeguards, including sharing of information relating to defendants, their assets and/or their deceptive conduct;
- Coordinate enforcement actions against cross-border violations of law;
- Provide other practical case assistance, where appropriate, in the enforcement of consumer protection laws, such as gathering evidence;
- Participate in econsumer.gov, which allows consumers from around the world to report fraud and provides consumer protection agencies around the world with access to important data about potential violations; and
- Cooperate on non-investigatory matters such as exchanging approaches to consumer protection policy issues and participating in staff exchanges, joint training programs and workshops.
Notably, the MMOU includes a mechanism for allowing other consumer protection authorities to join in the future.
The Commission voted 4-0 to authorize the FTC Chair to sign the MOU. The Commission vote closed on a date prior to Commissioner Christine S. Wilson’s departure from the agency.
SCARS believes that this is a major step in developing multinational networks for the sharing of information and to enable better law enforcement cooperation.
This is also expected to have a significant impact on the growing scope of Latin American Scammer organizations from Mexico to Brazil which are every bit as large as Nigerian criminal organizations.
First, it will help to protect consumers from cross-border fraud and deception. In today’s globalized economy, scammers can easily target consumers in other countries. This agreement will allow the FTC and its counterparts in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to share information and coordinate investigations to crack down on cross-border fraud.
Second, the agreement will help to promote fair competition in the marketplace. By working together, the FTC and its counterparts in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru can better identify and address anti-competitive practices that harm consumers.
Third, the agreement will help to strengthen consumer rights and protections across the region. By sharing best practices and working to harmonize consumer protection laws, the FTC and its counterparts in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru can help to ensure that consumers have the same level of protection regardless of where they live.
The multilateral agreement is a positive step forward for consumer protection in the Americas. It is a sign of the commitment of the FTC and its counterparts in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru in working together to protect consumers from cross-border fraud, promote fair competition, and strengthen consumer rights and protections.
Here are some specific examples of how the multilateral agreement could be used to protect consumers:
- Cross-border fraud: The FTC could work with its counterparts in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to investigate and prosecute cross-border fraud schemes. For example, if a scammer in Colombia is targeting consumers in the United States, the FTC could work with the Colombian authorities to shut down the scam and recover money for victims.
- Anti-competitive practices: The FTC could work with its counterparts in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to identify and address anti-competitive practices that harm consumers. For example, if a company is engaging in price fixing or collusion in multiple countries, the FTC could work with the authorities in those countries to investigate and prosecute the company.
- Consumer rights and protections: The FTC could work with its counterparts in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to share best practices and work to harmonize consumer protection laws. For example, the FTC could share its expertise on data privacy and security with its counterparts in the other countries.
The multilateral agreement is a valuable tool that can be used to protect consumers in the Americas. It is important for consumers to be aware of the agreement and to report any suspected violations to the FTC or their local consumer protection authority.