FTC Issues Report to Congress on Use of its Enhanced Authority Under the U.S. SAFE WEB Act

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report to Congress examining how the agency has used the expanded law enforcement authority Congress provided in the U.S. SAFE WEB Act to protect American consumers since the Act was signed into law on December 22, 2006. The SAFE WEB Act authorizes the FTC to share information and work cooperatively with foreign law enforcement agencies to protect consumers from cross-border harm.

The report, “The U.S. SAFE WEB Act: The First Three Years,” is available on the FTC’s Web site and as a link to this press release. The report details how the agency has used its new authority to protect consumers in the global economy. For example, the FTC shared non-public information pursuant to the Act with foreign authorities, including the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, to shut down a vast international spam network that sent billions of e-mails peddling bogus products to U.S. and foreign consumers. The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs provided the FTC with substantial investigative assistance and, as a result of this cooperation, both the FTC and the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs initiated successful enforcement actions shutting down this fraudulent operation. In addition to other relief, the FTC obtained a $15.15 million default judgment against the principal operator of the global spam network in FTC v. Atkinson. The report makes clear that this kind of cross-border cooperation is critical to the FTC’s ability to combat the types of global scams that consumers increasingly face.

The FTC report provides information on a wide range of matters mandated by Congress, including data on the number of cross-border complaints received by the Commission; a description of specific cases in which the FTC worked cooperatively with foreign
agencies; the number of times the FTC has issued compulsory process on behalf of foreign agencies; and implementation of the agency’s International Fellows Program.

The FTC recommends in the report that Congress take immediate action to repeal a “sunset” provision that would cause the Act to expire in 2013. The Act has played a significant role in facilitating cross-border cooperation in investigations and enforcement proceedings. As stated in the report, “The FTC’s ability to protect consumers in a global economy would be significantly hampered if the Act were to expire.”

The Commission vote approving the report to Congress was 4-0. (FTC File No. P035303; the staff contact is Shaundra Watson, Office of International Affairs, 202-326-2777.)

Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

(FYI 57.2009.wpd)

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