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Bureau of Consumer Protection

What Is the Bureau of Consumer Protection? 

The Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) is a division within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States. 

The primary purpose of the BCP is to enforce federal laws that protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent business practices. 

The BCP investigates and takes legal action against individuals and companies that engage in deceptive advertising, scams, identity theft, and other forms of consumer fraud. In addition, the BCP educates consumers about their rights and gives guidance on how to avoid falling for consumer fraud. It’s also responsible for the Do Not Call Registry. 

Third-party definition 

A Bureau of the United States’ Federal Trade Commission that is tasked with stopping fraudulent business practices. – Progress

7 Divisions of BCP 

The BCP has seven divisions, including:

  • Privacy and Identity Protection. This division protects consumers’ privacy, enforcing laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, holding conferences like PrivacyCon, issuing privacy and security reports, and helping victims of identity theft. 
  • Advertising Practices. This division enforces “truth-in-advertising” laws, ensuring that advertising is truthful and that all business claims are evidence-based. 
  • Consumer & Business Education. This division provides business and consumer education, for example, information about student loans, debt collection, and mortgages. 
  • Enforcement. This division develops, reviews, and enforces consumer protection rules, monitors compliance with administrative and federal court orders from FTC consumer protection cases, and coordinates actions with criminal law enforcement agencies for criminal prosecution of consumer fraud. It also runs the bureau’s bankruptcy program. 
  • Marketing Practices. This division deals with internet and phone scams, fraudulent business opportunity scams, Do Not Call and CAN-SPAM violations, and deceptive telemarketing/direct mail marketing schemes. It also issues and oversees rules like the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
  • Consumer Response & Operation. This division collects and examines consumer complaints about fraud, identity theft, and violations of the Do Not Call Registry and shares them with law enforcement. It is also involved with consumer redress activities. 
  • Financial Practices. This division protects consumers from unfair business practices and false information in the financial services industry specifically. 
  • Litigation Technology & Analysis. This division is responsible for the tech that the BCP uses for consumer protection matters.

Data Brokers and BCP 

The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection addresses data brokers through various means, focusing on ensuring transparency, fairness, and consumer privacy in the data brokerage industry. 

For example, in 2014, the FTC issued an investigative report on data brokers that noted a severe lack of transparency in the industry. The report also recommended that Congress pass legislation allowing consumers to learn about data broker activities and give them more control over the personal data collected and shared about them. 

That same year, the FTC BCP charged a data broker with selling the sensitive personal information of hundreds of thousands of individuals to scammers, who used that information to steal millions from those individuals’ bank accounts. 

In 2022, the FTC BCP sued a data broker for selling precise geolocation data. More recently, the FTC banned a data broker from sharing/selling sensitive location information. 

In addition to investigative studies, enforcement actions, and policy advocacy, the FTC BCP also conducts educational campaigns, like this one titled “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” which focused on data brokers and big data analytics techniques to put consumers into categories and predict their behavior.