On November 16, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission released a memorandum of understanding designed to formalize their plans to coordinate consumer protection efforts.

The FCC is charged with regulating all interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable, while the FTC is primarily responsible for preventing unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce.  The two agencies previously entered into a memorandum of understanding related to telemarketing enforcement in 2003.

The most recent memorandum expresses the agencies’ desire to continue working together to protect consumers and the public interest and to avoid duplicative, redundant, or inconsistent oversight.  The agencies will engage in joint enforcement actions, consult on investigations or actions that implicate the jurisdiction of the other agency, share relevant investigative techniques, and collaborate on consumer and industry outreach and education efforts.  The memorandum names FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica L. Rich, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc, and FCC Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Acting Chief Alison Kutler as the primary sources of contact for each agency.

The memorandum further expresses the agencies’ belief that the common carrier exemption in the FTC Act does not preclude the FTC from addressing non-common-carrier activities engaged in by common carriers.  “Further, no exercise of enforcement authority by the FTC should be taken to be a limitation on authority otherwise available to the FCC, including FCC authority over activities engaged in by common carriers and by non-common carriers for and in connection with common carrier services,” the memorandum stated.

Both agencies will also share data regarding consumer complaints.  Specifically, the FTC will provide FCC staff access to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database that provides law enforcement members with access to millions of consumer complaints submitted directly to the FTC, while the FCC will become a data contributor to that network.

The memorandum comes at a time when both the FCC and FTC have been particularly focused on consumer protection as evidenced by recent enforcement actions.  While the memorandum does not alter either agency’s legal authority, it does demonstrate their continued commitment to engage in coordinated consumer protection efforts.