Regulators’ Complaint Reports Foretell 2018 Consumer Protection Enforcement Trends

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued its annual summary of consumer complaints from the past year, joining with attorneys general from states across the country whose reports have already been released. Taken together, these reports provide a reliable prediction of where regulators will be focusing their attention in the coming months. The following high-complaint areas suggest the highest priority areas for regulators in 2018:

  • Unfair Debt Collection – Taking the prize for first place on the FTC’s and many state complaint summaries was unfair debt collection practices. Consumer complaints included creditors’ unauthorized contact with consumers at their place of employment and unlawful threats against consumers’ property.
  • Telemarketing – Teleservices continue to be a large source of consumer complaints among states and the FTC. In particular, areas of specific interest for regulators will be violations of the “Do Not Call” rule and the promulgation of telemarketing scams.
  • Identity Theft – Despite experiencing some decline in numbers over the last year, identity theft remains one of the most prevalent sources of consumer complaints. Credit card fraud was the most common form of identity theft with tax fraud following closely on its heels.
  • Automobile Sales – While not listed specifically as an area of concern by the FTC, unfair and deceptive business practices regarding the sale of used automobiles and leasing new automobiles were listed as top priorities by many state agencies.

With such a large majority of consumer complaints coming from just a few industries nationwide, business in these industries should expect increased regulatory scrutiny, which can often include coordinated efforts between state attorneys general and federal agencies. To avoid becoming the target of enforcement action, we continue to recommend businesses seek experienced counsel to help evaluate their business practices and ensure they are maintaining compliance with the broad array of consumer protection regulations.

* Adam Steele contributed to this post.