Consumer complaints are playing a big role in the federal government’s identification of and investigations into violations of consumer protection laws. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently released its 2012 annual report of consumer complaints, which revealed that consumer fraud complaints make up over half of all the 2012 complaints received by the FTC.
The FTC enters complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network (“CSN”), which is a secure online database of consumer complaints that is available only to law enforcement. The CSN contains consumer complaints received by the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“Bureau”), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Council of Better Business Bureaus, state law enforcement organizations, and a number of other state and federal entities.
According to the report, the CSN contains over 8 million complaints, including those about credit reports, debt collection, mortgages, lending, and other consumer topics. The FTC entered 2 million complaints into the CSN during 2012 alone.
The FTC’s annual report indicates that fifty-two percent of the 2012 complaints were fraud-related, including the following types of complaints that impact the consumer financial services industry:
The FTC and other federal agencies, including the Bureau, rely on these types of complaints in their mission to prevent and detect deceptive and unfair business practices.
Consumer financial services companies should carefully review this list, their own acts and practices, and consumer complaints they receive directly to ensure that they are not running afoul of the laws protecting consumers in consumer financial services transactions.