Consumer Protection Branch

Role of Consumer Protection Branch

The Consumer Protection Branch (CPB) was established in 1971, due to considerable interest in Congress and the Executive Branch in creating a Department of Justice office to concentrate on consumer issues. Since that time, CPB has functioned as a relatively small, specialized group of litigators focused on consumer protection statutes, many of which provide for both civil and criminal remedies. As a result, CPB's attorneys have developed unique expertise on a full range of consumer protection issues applied in both civil and criminal contexts.

CPB enforces and defends the consumer protection programs of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). By regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 0.45(j), CPB has responsibility for litigation under the principal federal consumer protection laws these agencies enforce. These include the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; the odometer tampering prohibitions of the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act; the Consumer Product Safety Act; and a variety of laws administered by the Federal Trade Commission, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The complex nature of these statutes, along with a variety of other factors, have led CPB to remain a central repository of technical expertise. The issues that arise under these statutes are commonplace nationally, but arise only infrequently in any single jurisdiction. Moreover, the violations usually have regional or national, rather than local, impact. Thus, CPB has for 35+ years focused on these consumer protection statutes.

Because of the existence of CPB, agencies charged with administering consumer protection statutes have had ready and effective representation. Moreover, in the criminal arena, CPB has been highly successful in prosecuting cases which it has developed in coordinated efforts with client agencies. CPB's nationwide enforcement efforts are reflected in prosecutions involving: the use of fraud and bribery to obtain FDA approval for drugs and devices; the illegal distribution of pre-controlled substance drugs (such as steroids and GHB before those drugs became controlled substances), which threaten the health of those who use them; the covert distribution of unapproved bulk animal drugs that endanger the nation's food supply; "food fraud," in which juices, seafood, or other foods are stretched with cheap fillers but sold as 100% pure high-value foods; odometer frauds, in which automobile mileages are falsified to fraudulently inflate market values and to conceal potentially unsafe vehicles; abusive and overreaching debt collection practices; and violations of trade regulation rules the FTC has promulgated, such as the Franchise Rule which prevents fraud in the sale of business opportunities.


Updated October 20, 2014

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