Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras today presented FTC testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, requesting $240.2 million and 1,084 full-time employees to accomplish the agency’s competition and consumer protection missions in FY 2008. The request represents an increase of $17.2 million from the FTC’s FY 2007 budget appropriations level.
“The FTC is the only federal agency with both consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy,” according to the testimony. “The agency enforces laws that prohibit business practices that are anticompetitive, deceptive, or unfair, and it promotes informed consumer choice and understanding of the competitive process.”
According to testimony, $8.8 million of the requested budget increase would be used for mandatory salary and contract expenses, including $1.4 million for 10 new full time employees in the consumer protection mission’s privacy and identity protection program; $4.5 million for consumer protection enforcement, analysis, and outreach; $1.6 million for electronic litigation support and E-Gov and information technology initiatives; and $900,000 for facility reconditioning, equipment replacements, records management, and human capital and support needs.
“During FY 2008, the FTC will address significant law enforcement and policy issues throughout the U.S. economy and abroad,” the testimony continued, “devoting major portions of its resources to those areas in which the agency can provide the greatest benefits to consumers.”
Overall, the testimony stated, the focus of the FTC’s consumer protection mission in the coming year will be on broad efforts to fight unfair and deceptive conduct involving data security, identity theft, Do Not Call enforcement, financial services, advertising, media violence ratings, childhood obesity, and new technology-driven threats such as spam and spyware. The focus of the competition mission in FY 2008 will continue to be on merger and nonmerger enforcement, particularly in the areas of heath care, energy, and high technology.
The testimony next outlined the FTC’s major consumer protection accomplishments in FY 2007, including enforcement of the nation’s consumer privacy, data security, and identity theft laws; business and consumer education outreach and cooperation initiatives; high-tech enforcement in areas such as spyware, spam, and digital rights management; financial practices enforcement, including alternative mortgages, debt-collection, and credit deception; enforcement of the Do Not Call Registry; and matters involving media violence, alcohol advertising, and the Hispanic Law Enforcement Initiative. A range of FTC workshops, including Tech-Ade, also were described, along with the Commission’s consumer and business education initiatives, criminal enforcement coordination work, and advocacy activities.
In the competition area, the testimony cited the FTC’s work in protecting consumers in the health care industry, with particular merger and non-merger enforcement actions described related to pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostic systems, hospitals and other institutional providers, and alleged price-fixing by physicians’ groups nationwide. Next, the FTC’s work in the energy sector was described, including a description of the Commission’s May 2006 report on Gasoline Price Manipulation and Post-Katrina Gasoline Price Increases, which contains the findings of a congressionally mandated study into whether gasoline prices nationwide were artificially manipulated following Hurricane Katrina. The testimony next presents the FTC’s work related to real estate competition and the technology marketplace, followed by a discussion of the agency’s provision of guidance and advocacy, along with a continuation of improvements to the merger-review process.
Finally, the testimony noted several other important accomplishments during FY 2007, including the establishment of the Office of International Affairs, which brings together the international functions formerly handled by the Bureaus of Competition and Consumer Protection and the Office of General Counsel. The Office will continue, in an integrated manner, the Commission’s important work in the areas of international competition and consumer protection, as well as its international technical assistance and outreach.
“We want to ensure that the quality of our work is maintained despite the breadth of our mission and the challenges that we have described involving technological change and an evolving global economy,” the testimony concluded. “In light of these new laws and challenges, we will continue to assess our personnel and resource needs to ensure that the agency vigorously protects American consumers and promotes a vibrant marketplace.”
The Commission vote authorizing the presentation of the testimony and its inclusion in the formal record was 5-0.
Copies of the Commission’s testimony 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 in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), 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/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. P040101)
Mitchell J. Katz,
Office of Public Affairs