18 June 2003

Australia Joins OECD to Protect Consumers Against International Scams

Australia has joined forces with OECD countries to protect consumers against the growing problem of cross-border fraud and other scams, particularly on the internet.

These include pyramid and lottery schemes, travel and credit-related ploys and high-tech scams such as modem and web-page hijacking.

"Developments in trade and technology have given consumers unprecedented access to new products, services, information and markets, but fraud operators have exploited them to deceive large numbers of consumers in many countries," the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Senator Ian Campbell, said.

"OECD members have recognised that such practices harm not only consumers but also legitimate businesses, ultimately reducing consumer confidence in the global marketplace."

He said OECD guidelines released today aimed to increase co-operation between member countries to combat scams.

"Cross-border fraud operators can strike quickly, victimise thousands of consumers in a short period, then disappear with the proceeds of their frauds," he said. "These shady operators are able to escape prosecution in many cases because of the limited ability of law enforcement agencies to pursue them across national borders or share evidence with other national agencies.

"A major concern to Australia is that court-ordered remedies prohibiting fraud operators from engaging in their disreputable practices can be relatively ineffective across borders. These new guidelines represent an important step in OECD members' resolve to fight back for consumers."

Senator Campbell said the guidelines contained broad principles for international co-operation between national consumer protection enforcement agencies with specific provisions covering notification, information sharing, assistance and investigations. They also invited co-operation from the private sector.

The full text of the guidelines is available on the OECD's website at http://www.oecd.org/sti/crossborderfraud.

18 June 2003

Contact: Wayne Grant 02 6277 3955 or 0407 845 280