Authors: Hatice Ekici Tağa, Sümeyye Uçar, Bensu Özdemir
Econsumer.gov is an initiative of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (“ICPEN”). ICPEN is a network of governmental organizations in the enforcement of fair-trade practice laws and other consumer protection activities. ICPEN provides a forum for developing and maintaining regular contact between consumer protection agencies and focusing on consumer protection concerns.
In this context, ICPEN has established the econsumer.gov and more than 40 countries have become partners in this initiative. Turkey is one of these countries and the website has been serving in Turkish since 2014. With econsumer.gov, it started to receive and share cross-border e-commerce complaints, especially in order to respond to the challenges of internet fraud and increase the level of consumer confidence. Serving as an official website, econsumer.gov allows law enforcement around the world to access and share consumer complaints information and other research data.
Econsumer.gov is a platform where you can report international fraud and learn about other steps you can take to combat fraud. Along with complaints, it also assists in the prevention of international fraud.
Addition to above, the applications made every year are published statistically under certain categories, and it is especially emphasized on which areas the complaints are directed. In the continuation, advisory statements are made in order to prevent unjust treatment. In addition, it draws attention to the fraud cases that periodically increase around the world and creates public opinion. In particular, it is stated that consumer complaints have increased during the pandemic, and authorities draw attention to the rights of consumers by sharing the problems encountered in general.
In order to file a complaint with econsumer.gov, the problem should be international nature. That is, a Turkish consumer cannot file a complaint for a consumer problem that has been occurred in Turkey, but instead resort to the Consumer Arbitration Committee or other dispute resolution methods. However, a complaint can be filed through econsumer,gov if encountered a problem abroad or due to a foreign vendor/provider.
When making a complaint, it is asked to share some personal information and information regarding the complaint, such as the reason for the complaint. At this point, the important thing is that data, such as bank/card information, ID number or health history that constitutes sensitive data, should not be shared. The complaint data will be entered into Consumer Sentinel, a consumer complaint database maintained by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a government consumer protection agency. The data, including personal contact information, will be available to certified government law enforcement and regulatory agencies in many countries. Those agencies may use this information to investigate, enforcement actions, and spot consumer trends. Although the complaint will be accessible to numerous government agencies, it may or may not be accessed by them. Many government agencies bring lawsuits to protect the public at large, but do not intervene on behalf of individual consumers. Other agencies have an obligation to investigate each complaint. For this reason, there is no guarantee of resolution regarding complaints made here. On the other hand, it should be made sure that the application is clear and understandable. As so, the complaint will attract attention.
Even though the website does not guarantee a solution to the complaints made, it recommends alternative ways and gives necessary information to apply for them. Thus, even if a solution cannot be obtained against the complaint made to the site, it is aimed the relief through other actions taken. Not only in the resident country, but also in international platforms, efforts are performed to prevent consumer grievances. Also, with the developing conjuncture, studies continue to be used of consumer rights more effectively.