FTC Chairman Issues Report at Aba Spring Meeting

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Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy J. Muris today issued the report, “Fulfilling the Original Vision: The FTC at 90,” at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Annual Spring Meeting in Washington, DC. The report highlights some of the FTC’s accomplishments from the past year and outlines several goals to guide the agency’s twin missions of competition and consumer protection.

The report states that the FTC’s missions “complement each other and maximize benefits for consumers – accurate information in the marketplace facilitates free and robust competition.” In the past year, the FTC has addressed critical consumer concerns, resulting in many accomplishments. Specifically, the report discusses:

  • Currently, the FTC has more competition cases in Part 3 administrative adjudication than at any time in recent history, including physician price fixing, collective rate setting, and consummated high-tech and hospital merger cases.

  • In June 2003, the FTC launched the wildly popular National Do Not Call Registry, which offers consumers a choice about the number of telemarketing calls they receive at home and currently contains over 58 million phone numbers.

  • The FTC has taken a significant step in addressing the proper balance of competition and patent law and policy by issuing a report that concluded that questionable patents raise competitive concerns and harm innovation.

  • In September 2003, the FTC released a staff report on the reach and applicability of the State Action Doctrine, making detailed recommendations on clarifying application of this exemption to the antitrust laws.

  • The FTC held a workshop together with the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice to promote transparency in its decision-making processes and to assess the effectiveness of the Horizontal Merger Guidelines.

  • The FTC undertook a comprehensive survey of consumers’ personal experiences with identity theft, which provided new data on the prevalence and types of ID theft in the marketplace.

  • The agency is using a multi-pronged strategy to combat deceptive health claims, including work with the Food and Drug Administration and challenging the media to help in the fight against deceptive weight-loss advertisements.

The report discusses five principles that guide the development of the agency’s agenda for consumers. In exercising its competition and consumer protection authority, the FTC should:

  • • Promote competition and the unfettered exchange of accurate, non-deceptive information through strong enforcement and focused activity;

  • Stop conduct that most threatens consumer welfare, such as anticompetitive horizontal agreements and fraudulent and deceptive practices;

  • Employ a systematic approach for identifying and addressing serious misconduct, with special attention to harmful behavior in key economic sectors;

  • Apply all elements of the agency’s distinctive portfolio of policy instruments – prosecuting cases, conducting studies, performing research, holding hearings and workshops, engaging in advocacy before other government bodies, and educating businesses and consumers – to address competition and consumer protection issues; and

  • Improve the institutions and processes by which competition and consumer protection policies are formulated and applied.

Copies of the report are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1 877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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