Holding TRUSTe Clients to Higher Online Privacy Standards


The TRUSTe Dispute Resolution program provides free online third-party privacy dispute resolution to anyone who files an eligible complaint about a TRUSTe client.

The Dispute Resolution program lets TRUSTe mediate between the individual complainant and the client. The individual's right to legal recourse is not affected. While TRUSTe's final determination is not binding on the individual, the client must comply with TRUSTe's final determination or face removal from the TRUSTe program, possible publication of that removal, and/or referral to an appropriate law-enforcement body.

Dispute Resolution Process FAQ

Who can file a complaint?

Who are the parties in a complaint?

What constitutes an eligible complaint?

What constitutes an ineligible complaint?

Is TRUSTe obliged to consider all filed complaints?

What remedies are available to me as a Complainant?

How do I file a complaint?

What happens during the Dispute Resolution process?

When does TRUSTe close a complaint?


Dispute Resolution -- Appeals Process

How do I appeal the decision on a complaint?

What happens after I file an appeal?


Who can file a complaint?
Any individual may file a complaint against a TRUSTe Client through the Dispute Resolution program.

Who are the parties in a complaint?

The parties are:

  • Complainant: The individual complaining about either a Client's misuse of personally identifiable information (PII) or a violation of its privacy statement
  • Client: The company about which the Complainant is complaining

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What constitutes an eligible complaint?
In order for a complaint to be considered eligible in the program, all of the following must be true:

  • The complaint is about a company that holds an authentic TRUSTe seal
  • The Complainant has already made a good-faith attempt to resolve the problem directly with the Client
  • The complaint raises an online privacy issue that affects the personally identifiable information of either the Complainant or that of a child whose parent or guardian is the Complainant
  • The privacy complaint alleges that the Client collected, used or disclosed the personally identifiable information in a manner inconsistent with its published online privacy statement
  • The privacy complaint is in English or the Client has secured appropriate translation services
  • The privacy complaint is lodged with TRUSTe via the Dispute Resolution form on the TRUSTe website*

*Exception: Complaints about the offline privacy practices of a Client in the TRUSTe EU Safe Harbor Program can be submitted by postal mail or fax.

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What constitutes an ineligible complaint?
A complaint that either doesn't satisfy the criteria for an eligible complaint OR has any of the following characteristics is ineligible to be considered in the TRUSTe Dispute Resolution program:

  • The privacy complaint seeks only monetary damages
  • The privacy complaint alleges fraud or other violations of statutory or regulatory law
  • The privacy complaint has been resolved under a previous court action, arbitration, or other form of dispute resolution

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Is TRUSTe obliged to consider all filed complaints?
TRUSTe reviews all complaints; however, TRUSTe is not obligated to pursue any complaint that it deems frivolous or that constitutes harassment of either TRUSTe or a TRUSTe client.

TRUSTe defines a frivolous complaint as one that either has no factual basis, or that does not relate to any obligations imposed by the TRUSTe License Agreement. Harassing complaints include successive complaints based on allegations that TRUSTe has previously addressed, and complaints filed with TRUSTe employees other than those designated by TRUSTe to receive complaints.

What remedies are available to me as a Complainant?

Based upon the facts of a particular complaint, TRUSTe may do any or all of the following:

  • Require the Client to either correct or modify personally identifiable information, or change user preferences
  • Require the Client to change its privacy statement or privacy practices
  • Require the Client to submit to a third-party audit of its privacy practices to ensure both the validity of its privacy statement and that it has implemented the corrective action that TRUSTe required

If a Client refuses to comply with the actions that TRUSTe requires, TRUSTe may refer the Client to an appropriate government agency, remove it from the TRUSTe program, and/or sue the client for breach of its License Agreement with TRUSTe.

TRUSTe cannot require a client to either pay monetary damages or take steps that would require the client to violate legal requirements imposed on it.

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How do I file a complaint?
To register a complaint with TRUSTe, you must complete the online Dispute Resolution form. Any complaint that you register by phone, paper mail, or email outside the formal Dispute Resolution process will be returned to you with a request that you file a formal complaint on TRUSTe's website.

After you file your complaint on TRUSTe's website, the TRUSTe Dispute Resolution and Appeal processes are carried out by email.

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What happens during the Dispute Resolution process?
TRUSTe attempts to mediate and resolve eligible privacy concerns that arise from a consumer's use of a TRUSTe client's website.

Before you can begin the following process, you must first attempt to resolve your problem by addressing your complaint directly with the TRUSTe client.

You file a complaint with TRUSTe
If you are dissatisfied with the Client's handling of your complaint, you can file a complaint-the first step in the TRUSTe Dispute Resolution process. TRUSTe will review the information you submitted through the online Dispute Resolution form and determine whether your complaint is eligible for action.

Information you submit as the Complainant must include a description of your interaction with the client about your problem. This information must be sufficiently complete to permit the Client and the TRUSTe Mediator to evaluate the complaint adequately.

As a Complainant, you must clarify whether you want TRUSTe to share the specifics of your complaint-including your name-with the Client. If you do not want this information to be shared with the Client, TRUSTe's ability to rectify the situation may be hindered.

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TRUSTe determines whether the complaint is eligible
TRUSTe will inform you within 10 business days as to whether your complaint meets the eligibility requirements (See What is an eligible complaint?). If TRUSTe determines that your complaint is ineligible, you will be emailed a written explanation as to why.

TRUSTe collects and examines information on the dispute

A TRUSTe Mediator will be the sole judge of whether the information you provided as a Complainant is sufficient to open an investigation. TRUSTe may contact you for additional information that would assist us in addressing your complaint. You would have 10 business days from our contacting you to provide this additional information. If you do not provide this information, TRUSTe will consider the complaint closed.

A Client or Complainant may submit information to TRUSTe with a request that the information not be made available to the other party. This information should be clearly marked "confidential," and the requesting Client or Complainant should confirm that the information is not publicly available. TRUSTe will handle confidential information obtained through the Dispute Resolution program in the same way that it handles its own confidential information.

Once TRUSTe determines that your complaint is eligible, we will assign your complaint a unique complaint number. Please be sure to include the complaint number in the subject line of all emails you send to TRUSTe thereafter.

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4. The Dispute Resolution process goes forward

  • After TRUSTe deems a complaint eligible and all necessary information has been collected from the Complainant, we will send the complaint to the Client. The Client then has five (5) business days to respond to both the Complainant and TRUSTe, and an additional five (5) business days to resolve the complaint, as appropriate.
  • If TRUSTe considers the Client's response to be deficient in any respect, it may request additional information from the Client (to be provided within five [5] business days).
  • After receiving the Client's response, the Complainant has 10 business days to submit an emailed reply to both TRUSTe and the Client that objects to the Client's proposed resolution of the complaint. If the Complainant does not submit a reply and TRUSTe is satisfied with the Client's resolution of the complaint, TRUSTe will close the complaint following the expiration of the Complainant's time to reply.
  • If the Complainant submits a reply that objects to the Client's proposed resolution of the complaint, TRUSTe will promptly forward it to the Client. The Client then has 10 business days to submit a written response to TRUSTe. If the Client submits a satisfactory response, TRUSTe will close the complaint, subject to a request by either party for additional comments. If the Client does not submit a response, this will be noted and taken into consideration in TRUSTe's final determination.
  • TRUSTe may, in its sole discretion, extend any of the time periods discussed above.
  • TRUSTe will not consider information it receives after any specified deadline or extension of time.
  • Once TRUSTe, in its sole judgment, has made a final determination about the complaint, it will promptly notify both the Complainant and the Client.
  • Where corrective action by the Client is required, TRUSTe will request the Client to indicate within 10 business days whether it agrees to take any required corrective action(s) or chooses to appeal.
  • The complaint will be considered closed unless an appeal is filed by either the Complainant or the Client within 10 business days of TRUSTe's final determination.

If Client fails to answer a complaint
If a Client fails to answer a complaint with a timely response, TRUSTe will send the Client a second notice stating that, within 10 business days after receipt of the notice, TRUSTe may:
- Withdraw or suspend the Client's privacy seal
- Refer the matter to the appropriate government agency depending on the nature of the complaint and/or
- If license is terminated, post a termination notice on the TRUSTe website

  • If the Client fails to respond to the second notice, TRUSTe will send the Client a Notice of Termination.

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When does TRUSTe close a complaint?
TRUSTe will close a complaint when it has issued its final determination.

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How do I appeal the decision on a complaint?
Appeals must be submitted within 10 business days of receiving TRUSTe’s e-mail notice that TRUSTe is closing the complaint.

The email address to use for filing an appeal with TRUSTe is appeals@truste.com and must include the complaint number in the subject line of the appeal request.

The party filing the appeal must explain, in a statement not to exceed 1000 words, why TRUSTe’s final determination of the complaint should be overturned. (“Appeal Statement”).

Note: TRUSTe's determination about whether an issue falls within the scope of its privacy programs is final, and is not subject to appeal via the Appeals Process.

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What happens after I file an appeal?
Upon receiving an appeal, TRUSTe’s Compliance Director will review the complaint and determine within 10 business days whether the complaint is eligible to be reopened for further investigation. For example, TRUSTe may reopen an investigation if the consumer reports substantive new information that a resolution a client indicated was applied has ceased having effect.

After TRUSTe’s Compliance Director completes TRUSTe’s review, TRUSTe may direct the other party to respond by e-mail within 10 business days thereafter, explaining in a statement not to exceed 1000 words why TRUSTe’s final determination should be sustained, or supplying responses to specific questions from TRUSTe. The party filing the original appeal will be notified if TRUSTe is seeking information from the other party.

If TRUSTe's Compliance Director determines that the original complaint disposition was proper according to TRUSTe processes, and introduces no substantive new information that could not have been raised earlier, or finds no other basis for appeal, the Compliance Director will request review by TRUSTe's Legal Department of the issue appealed, and TRUSTe will respond with its final appeals determination within ten business days.

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TRUSTe is the leading global Data Privacy Management (DPM) company and powers trust in the data economy by enabling businesses to safely collect and use customer data across their customer, employee, and vendor channels. Our SaaS-based DPM Platform gives users control over all phases of data privacy management from conducting assessments and implementing compliance controls to managing ongoing monitoring. Our DPM Services, including assessments and certifications, are delivered by an expert team of privacy professionals. Thousands of companies worldwide rely on TRUSTe to minimize compliance risk and protect their brand.