The FTC in 2005: Standing Up for Consumers and Competition
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras today issued the agency’s annual report at the Spring Meeting of the American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law in Washington, DC. The report, entitled “The FTC in 2005: Standing Up for Consumers and Competition,” is available on the Commission’s Web site and includes sections on the agency’s competition and consumer protection missions, as well as the policy tools used to coordinate its law enforcement and international outreach efforts.
The report highlights the symmetry and synergy between the FTC’s competition and consumer protection missions, calling them “two parts of a greater whole, complementing each other in maximizing benefits for consumers.” Among the key items of focus and accomplishments over the past year, the report cites:
- An Increasing Focus on Mergers. The FTC received 40 percent more merger filings in the past 12 months compared to the previous year, with a commensurate increase in the number of mergers requiring investigations.
- Improvements in the Merger Review Process. The FTC has established a task force to recommend further improvements to the merger review process that will be designed to ease the burden on affected parties and increase internal efficiency.
- Addressing Significant Issues in Part 3 Commission Opinions. The Commission issued three adjudicative opinions, each of which addressed difficult competition policy issues.
- Enforcing the Do Not Call Program. To date, consumers have registered more than 86 million phone numbers with the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. The agency has filed five enforcement actions alleging calls to numbers on the Registry.
- Targeting Credit Reporting Problems and Identity Theft. Identity theft was the number one consumer complaint to the FTC is 2004. The FTC has completed 10 rules under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003 and also overseen the rollout of the free credit report program under the Act.
- Fostering Global Competition and Consumer Protection. The FTC has supported market-oriented polices to promote best practices and minimize policy divergences to ease the burden on firms that operate worldwide. Its goal in its consumer protection mission is to ensure that rules outside the United States focus most on practices that raise a serious threat to the proper functioning of the markets.
- Implementing the Hispanic Initiative. After releasing a survey in 2004 that showed that Hispanic consumers are disproportionately victimized by fraud, the FTC launched the Hispanic Law Enforcement and Outreach Initiative. One outcome was the development of a Spanish-language fraud awareness campaign in 11 media markets nationwide. The agency also brought 21 cases targeting Spanish-language fraud and produced nearly 100 consumer and business education pieces in Spanish.
- Promoting Competition in the Petroleum Industry. In FY 2004, the FTC reversed an Administrative Law Judge’s dismissal of anticompetitive charges against Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) and also took enforcement action related to three petroleum industry mergers. The Commission also issued a landmark study examining 20 years of FTC investigations and industry structural changes.
- Attacking Spam and Spyware. To date, the FTC has filed 68 spam-related cases against 198 individuals and companies. In addition, the Commission issued two rules attacking spam in FY 2004 and held a public workshop to learn more about spyware and adware.
In presenting policy tools the Commission uses to complement its law enforcement efforts, the report cites: 1) research and reports in both the competition and consumer protection areas; 2) hearings and workshops conducted on topics ranging from the petroleum industry to patent reform and information security and privacy; 3) advocacy to state and federal agencies, as well as the courts; 4) amicus briefs on subjects such as generic and branded pharmaceutical competition and legislation concerning the unauthorized practice of law; and 5) consumer and business education and outreach efforts.
Copies of the Commission’s 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, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.