No Cop on the Beat: Underenforcement in E-Commerce and Cybercrime


Article Snapshot


Peter Swire


Journal on Telecommunications & High Technology Law, Vol. 7, pp. 107-124, Winter 2009


This paper examines the problems of enforcing consumer protection law on the Internet.

Policy Relevance

Policymakers should move towards more enforcement of consumer protection laws at the federal level, because the states are unlikely to step up to protect consumers or pursue wrongdoers outside of their own borders.

Main Points

  • Laws against fraud and deceptive practices are often little enforced when violators use the Internet and live outside the jurisdiction of their victims.
  • Cops patrolling a geographic area on the beat build up local knowledge that helps with enforcement; this knowledge is lacking on the Internet.
  • State attorneys general often do not enforce laws against online fraud.
  • Forensics today is more technical, and federal  expertise can be valuable.
  • Reputation tracking systems on the Internet help with enforcement, but do not solve all the problems.
  • More federal enforcement efforts are needed because states lack the expertise and the inclination to target nationwide online criminal ventures.

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