Talk of electronic commerce dominated the National Consumers League 1999 Summit in Washington last week.
Internet shopping and financial transactions increasingly cross national borders, often without consumers realizing it.
Regulators acknowledged that the global marketplace poses new challenges in enforcing consumer protections.
"Which country's laws apply when transactions cross borders?" asked Pastor Herrera Jr., director of the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs. "How can consumers figure out what their rights are?"
Herrera, a consumers league board member, returned from the conference determined to track how many local complaints involved international transactions and to assemble a tip sheet for prudent online buying.
Nationally, online auctions topped the NCL's annual list of sources of consumer complaints, shoving aside perennials such as sweepstakes and work-at-home schemes.