What happens when a consumer files a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission?

Posted by Clyde Hutchins | Aug 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

What happens when a consumer files a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission?

One of the options that consumers think of when they have a consumer complaint against a company is to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is the nation's main consumer protection agency. It has broad powers to address companies that engage in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Most people are unsure of what happens after they file a complaint. Does the FTC open a case for them? Does the FTC arbitrate or negotiate for them? Does the FTC sue the company? What happens?

After devoting several years to leading the consumer protection unit of the Wyoming Attorney General's Office, and being engaged in joint cases with other states and the FTC, I learned many things about how the FTC handles consumer complaints. First, the FTC does not open cases for individual consumer complaints. A consumer will not have a case opened for them, or have the FTC negotiate on their behalf. There are far too many consumer complaints for the FTC to handle matters that way. Additionally, the FTC's authority is focused on consumers as a whole nationwide. Its attention is not focused on individuals. When the FTC acts, it is doing so on behalf of the general public.

Second, the FTC does bring enforcement actions against companies based in part on consumer complaints. The number of complaints and the seriousness of the alleged harms are factors that go into the FTC's decision on whether to bring an enforcement action against a particular company. There are other considerations too. Altogether, the FTC's decision to act against a company is the accumulation of many different factors including the consumer complaints filed with the FTC. If a company is receiving a high volume of consumer complaints filed with the FTC, that company is going to be more likely to receive attention from the FTC.

Third, the consumer complaints provide insight in to how companies act towards consumers and trends in unfair or deceptive practices and acts. The FTC publishes an annual report that shows the types and numbers of complaints. The annual report gives a snapshot of the consumer complaints nationwide that have been filed with the FTC.

Although you consumer complaint may be ignored by the FTC or lost in a mass of other consumer complaints, you do have options to resolve the matter. Oftentimes, a consumer complaint can be handled by a private attorney instead of the FTC. There are numerous laws that provide for private enforcement of consumer protection laws. If you want an attorney to help you with your consumer complaint, contact Harmony Law. (970) 488-1857. We may be able to help.

About the Author

Clyde Hutchins

Clyde Hutchins is the founder of Harmony Law. Prior to opening Harmony Law, Mr. Hutchins worked in the Wyoming Attorney General's Office for several years where he developed a strong consumer protection enforcement unit. In that position he led over 120 investigations and enforcement actions under the Consumer Protection Act. He worked on numerous joint cases with the Federal Trade Commission and other states, including Colorado, on consumer protection matters. Mr. Hutchins is also a contributing author to Consumer Protection Law Developments, Second Edition. Previous to his work in the Attorney General's Office, Mr. Hutchins was in private practice in Anchorage, Alaska where he was the chief litigator for a firm. Mr. Hutchins represented municipalities on various matters. Mr. Hutchins provided counsel to businesses and investment advisors regarding compliance with securities laws. He was also a bond lawyer and worked on municipal financing matters. Prior to that, Mr. Hutchins practiced civil litigation with a law firm in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Mr. Hutchins devotes his spare time to his family, traveling and enjoying the great outdoors.


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Harmony Law is one of the few law firms in Colorado and Wyoming that focuses on consumer law. Mr. Hutchins is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and state chair for Wyoming. If you have a consumer law issue, please feel free to call 970-488-1857 and speak with Mr. Hutchins.

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