A Federal Trade Commission report, released today, "Anticipating the 21st Century," shows that there has been a surge in merger activity and anti-fraud law enforcement cases at the agency. For example, premerger filings, required by law, have more than doubled -- from 1,529 in 1991 to 3,087 in 1996 -- and agency law enforcement actions in the consumer protection arena have nearly doubled over the same period.
"The FTC’s workload has increased dramatically in the recent past," said Robert Pitofsky, chairman of the agency. Globalization and the introduction of new information technologies have created new challenges for competition and consumer protection.
The report notes that by leveraging its resources extensively -- working with states, other federal agencies and private and industry groups -- the FTC has been able to increase its productivity and industry compliance with the law. "The agency has targeted its efforts in areas of most importance to consumers," the report says. "For example, in FY 1996, the FTC and its state and federal partners brought over 200 cases against fraudulent operators in a series of law enforcement ?sweeps’. The FTC’s cases alone stopped fraud that cost consumers $200 million in 1996 -- four times the FTC’s annual budget for consumer protection matters. In FY 1996, the dollar volume of commerce in the markets protected by successful merger challenges was $24 billion -- a tenfold increase from just 1993. If the FTC’s 1996 merger challenges prevented price increases of only 1 percent, these challenges saved consumers $240 million in 1996 -- more than four times the FTC’s annual budget for competition matters," it says.
Over the past 18 months, the FTC has reviewed and repealed more than 36 percent of its industry guides and trade regulation rules. "With internal reforms, the rulemakings were completed in record time. Since the program began in 1992, the FTC has reviewed more than half its rules and guides, repealing 12 rules and 15 industry guides and streamlining another 19 rules and guides," the report says.
The report cites four key FTC activities: Reducing fraud, deception and unfair practices in the marketplace; preventing anticompetitive mergers and other anticompetitive business practices in the marketplace; coordination and cooperation in consumer protection and competition matters; and unburdening legitimate business activities.
Copies of the report are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov (no period) and also from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
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