The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) collects complaints about companies that allegedly violate the data privacy, data security, advertising, and marketing laws. The result is a massive database of consumer complaints known as “Consumer Sentinel” that is used by the FTC and other consumer protection regulators to identify and investigate enforcement targets.

Regulators can use the FTC’s database to search for complaints on any company. They can also request that the database alert them to new complaints about a company, or connect them with other law enforcement agencies that might have an interest in investigating the same company. In addition to these functionalities, the FTC also creates a “Top Violator” report and a “Surge” report that tracks companies with suspicious patterns of consumer complaints. The end result is that the vast majority of FTC enforcement actions target companies identified within the FTC’s database.

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What to think about when considering the records that the FTC maintains about your company:

  • Has your company been identified as a potential enforcement target on the FTC’s Top P Violator or Surge reports?
  • Are you aware of the quantity of complaints that the FTC maintains about your company?
  • Is the volume of complaints filed about your company above, or below, those of others in your industry?
  • If the FTC, or another regulator, searched for the complaints about your company what potential compliance issues would they identify?
  • If your company were investigated by the FTC, is the volume of complaints filed about your company easily explained?
  • Is the volume of your complaints trending up, or trending down?
  • Have plaintiffs’ law firms investigated your complaint volume?