The 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 Consumer Sentinel to search for complaints on any company. They can also request that the database alert them to new complaints about an organization, or connect them with other law enforcement agencies that might have an interest in investigating the same organization. In addition to these functionalities, the FTC also creates a “Top Violator” report and a “Surge” report that track those organizations that the FTC believes may have a suspicious pattern of consumer complaints.1 The end result is that the vast majority of FTC enforcement actions target companies identified within the FTC’s database.

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

  1. Has your organization been identified as a potential enforcement target on the FTC’s Top Violator or Surge reports?
  2. Does your organization routinely track the quantity of complaints that the FTC maintains about it?
  3. Is the volume of complaints filed about your organization above, or below, those of others in your industry?
  4. If the FTC, or another regulator, searched for the complaints about your organization, what potential compliance issues would they identify?
  5. If your organization were investigated by the FTC, is the volume of complaints filed about it easily explained?
  6. Is the volume of your complaints trending up, or trending down?
  7. Have plaintiffs’ law firms investigated your complaint volume?

The following provides a snapshot of information regarding the FTC's tracking of complaints.

Click here to view table.