The Federal Trade Commission today released a report to Congress highlighting the Commission's achievements in complying with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). In March 1996, Congress passed SBREFA, which required federal agencies to establish policies or programs to make their regulations more understandable and less threatening to small businesses. Today's report discusses in detail the scope and achievements of the FTC's programs, which provide detailed policies for providing compliance assistance to small businesses and for considering mitigating factors when small businesses are subject to civil penalties for violations of statutes and rules enforced by the Commission.
In accordance with SBREFA, the FTC developed and implemented two policy statements to minimize the burden on small businesses of complying with statutes and rules within the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Commission's Small Business Compliance Assistance Policy Statement describes various forms of assistance available to small businesses to help them understand and comply with obligations imposed by the statutes and rules enforced by the FTC. The Commission's Civil Penalty Leniency Program Statement discusses mitigating factors the FTC considers when small businesses are subject to civil penalties for violation of a rule or statute enforced by the FTC. Both policy statements were published in the April 8, 1997 Federal Register.
In its report to Congress, the FTC highlights its achievements between the policies’ adoption on March 28 and Dec. 31, 1997, with respect to providing compliance and other types of assistance to small businesses and affording leniency in determining appropriate civil penalties for small businesses found to be in violation of rules and statutes enforced by the Commission. Some of these achievements are:
- More than 260,000 copies of business publications distributed -- many of them to small businesses.
- Most business education publications available on the FTC's website, http://www.ftc.gov , which had nearly 16 million "hits" during the reporting period.
- New publications to help small businesses comply with amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Consumer Leasing Act, textile labeling requirements, and fair packaging requirements for milk.
- Guidelines addressing antitrust laws relevant to physicians and health-care providers.
- New publications to assist small businesses in avoiding fraud perpetrated by bogus "yellow pages" publications, bogus fund-raising appeals, and invention-promotion schemes.
- 100 speeches by Commissioners or Commission staff members to business groups and organizations representing small business interests.
- Bureau of Consumer Protection staff responded to more than 16,000 individual requests for compliance (and other) assistance from small businesses. The Bureau of Competition responded to nearly 800 such requests.
- Eleven small businesses participated in the Commission's civil penalty leniency program, with the amount of penalties reduced and waived totaling more than $1 million.
- Workshops, conferences, and hearings on many topics of importance to small businesses, including: proposed amendments to the FTC's Franchise Rule and 900-Number Rule, food advertising claims, privacy issues in the on-line marketplace, and antitrust policies regarding joint ventures.
- Continuing commitment to regulatory reform: The Commission has repealed nearly 50% of its trade regulation rules and about 40% of its industry guides in recent years; other rules, including the textile labeling rules, have been streamlined and simplified.
The Commission vote to approve and transmit the report to Congress was 5-0.
Copies of the FTC's Report to Congress, the policy statements, and other materials relating to SBREFA, are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-3128; TDD 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.
(FTC Matter No. P974224)
Office of Public Affairs
Mary K. Engle, 202-326-3161
Neil J. Blickman, 202-326-3038
Bureau of Competition
Neil W. Averitt, 202-326-2885