Francine Lafontaine, Director
The Bureau of Economics provides economic support to the Commission’s antitrust and consumer protection activities, advises the Commission and other government entities about the impact of government regulation on competition, and analyzes economic phenomena in the nation’s economy as they relate to antitrust and consumer protection.
Consumer Protection Activities
In the consumer protection area, economists assess the benefits and costs of alternative policy approaches. Potential consumer protection actions are evaluated not only for their immediate impact, but also for their longer-run effects on price, product variety, and overall consumer welfare. Economists evaluate proposals for full-phase investigations, consent negotiations, consent settlements, and complaints. Economists routinely provide day-to-day guidance on individual matters, provide litigation support services, and make policy recommendations directly to the Commission.
In addition to the Bureau's direct support for individual consumer protection case matters, staff economists work on consumer protection topics of interest to the Commission. The goal of this program is to develop and disseminate historical and analytical information needed to devise sound consumer protection policy in order to: (1) increase our understanding of the situations in which consumer protection actions will enhance consumer welfare, (2) increase our knowledge about the effects of government regulations that affect consumers, and (3) ensure that consumer interests are represented before various governmental and self-regulatory bodies.
In the antitrust area, the economists participate in all investigations of alleged antitrust violations and in the presentation of cases in support of complaints. Economists also advise the Commission on all proposed antitrust actions and provide economic expertise for matters in litigation. For example, the economists work to integrate economic analysis into the proceedings, to provide expert testimony, and to devise remedies that would improve market competition. These activities consume the bulk of the Bureau's resources assigned to support the Commission's antitrust responsibilities.
Additionally, the Bureau maintains a small research and policy assessment program in support of the Commission's antitrust activities. The goal of this program is to develop and disseminate historical and analytical information needed to devise sound competition policy in order to: (1) increase our knowledge about those situations in which antitrust action will increase consumer welfare, (2) further the understanding of the role of business practices in advancing or retarding a competitively functioning economy, and (3) ensure that consumer interests are represented before various governmental and self-regulatory bodies.