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International Marketing Supervision Network (IMSN) and its Findings on Cross-border Remedies

08. September 2003

After discussions and exchanges of views at its October 2000 meeting, the International Marketing Supervision Network (IMSN), being an informal forum for marketing enforcers from 29 countries, concluded that there are several areas where the ability of IMSN members collectively to protect consumers and foster consumer confidence is limited.

Members expect that the growth of e-commerce will make these limitations increasingly problematic.  If consulted or otherwise in a position to give advice or provide information to policy makers, members could point out the following:

1. INFORMATION SHARING: 

IMSN members have laws restricting their ability to assist other members in investigating cases crossing national borders.

2. SCOPE OF AUTHORITY:

a. Some IMSN members lack authority to take action or enforce decisions taken against domestic entities that market only to consumers outside that member's country, and for some members the existence of that authority is unclear.
b. Some IMSN members lack authority to take action or enforce decisions taken against entities located or conducting business from outside that member's country, even if they target or transact with consumers within that member's country.
c. These limitations create enforcement gaps in the abilities of IMSN members to collectively protect consumers in IMSN countries.

3. CONDUCT PROHIBITIONS: 

Many IMSN members rely on injunctions and/or cease-and-desist orders to provide consumer protection to the public.  For example, such orders aim at stopping misleading and deceptive marketing practices that are harming consumers.  There is now very limited ability to enforce such orders across national borders.

4. REDRESS:

Some IMSN members use the ability to obtain monetary redress for groups of consumers to provide consumer protection to the public.  There is now very limited ability to enforce money judgments for such redress where assets are located, or moved, across national borders.

5. RECONCILING DIFFERENT SYSTEMS:

IMSN members share many similar goals in protecting consumers, particularly against misleading and deceptive marketing practices.  Members, however, have different legal structures and procedures to accomplish these common goals.  These differences pose coordination challenges to collective consumer protection by members.

6. OVERCOMING LIMITATIONS:

Finding ways to overcome these limitations is important to achieve effective consumer protection in the global marketplace.

7. OPTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION:

Potential options to address these limitations include:
a. review of current limitations on the authority of IMSN members to share information and cooperate with other enforcement agencies;
b. bilateral and multilateral arrangements respecting information sharing and mutual assistance;
c. bilateral and multilateral arrangements respecting judgment recognition and enforcement;
d. measures providing that IMSN members are not prevented from enforcing laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive marketing practices against a domestic business simply because that business has transacted with or targeted only foreign consumers;
e. measures providing that IMSN members are not prevented from enforcing laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive marketing practices against a business that has transacted with or targeted domestic consumers simply because it is not a domestic business.

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