The FTC in 2007: A Champion for Consumers and Competition
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras today issued the FTC’s 2007 Annual Report at the American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law Spring Meeting in Washington, DC. “The FTC in 2007: A Champion for Consumers and Competition,” available on the Commission’s Web site, describes the agency’s competition and consumer protection missions and accomplishments. For the first time, the online version of this year’s annual report will link readers to all source documents, such as press releases, reports, speeches, and education materials.
“The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for ensuring that competition in U.S. markets is free of distortion and that consumers are protected . . . through the workings of markets unburdened by anticompetitive conduct and government-imposed restrictions,” the report states, noting that enforcing the nation’s antitrust and consumer protection laws “is critical, indeed central, to the well-being of the American people.”
To accomplish its goals, the report notes, the FTC focuses on industries and practices that most directly affect consumers; works with other government agencies, criminal authorities, and foreign partners in enforcement and advocacy; supports enforcement with databases and other resources; monitors consumer concerns and business conduct through hearings, workshops, and public comments; promotes consumer welfare through speeches, reports, advocacy comments, amicus briefs, and testimony; and informs consumers and businesses on a variety of issues.
Noting distinctions that the agency has earned for integrity and effectiveness – a ranking among the most-trusted federal agencies to safeguard personal information in a Ponemon Institute study, an Office of Government Ethics award for an outstanding ethics program, and the Office of Management and Budget’s highest rating in a performance assessment of federal agencies – the report highlights several accomplishments:
- Protected consumers’ access to low-cost generic drugs by policing non-competition agreements between branded and generic drug manufacturers.
- Encouraged competition in the real estate brokerage industry by challenging efforts to keep lower-cost, nontraditional listings off multiple listing services or the Internet.
- Protected consumers’ privacy and information security through aggressive enforcement against spyware, adware, and spam.
- Resolved the Rambus case, holding that the company engaged in an anticompetitive “hold up” in the computer memory industry, and preventing Rambus from charging monopoly rates to license its technology.
- Through the FTC’s leadership role in the President’s Identity Theft Task Force, developed a strategic plan for the federal government to better prevent identity theft and began to implement its interim recommendations within the agency.
- Preserved competition in energy industries and expanded public understanding of energy markets by challenging a merger in the natural gas market and an acquisition in the terminaling of gasoline market, issuing reports on gasoline price manipulation and ethanol market concentration, and convening a public forum to discuss competition in energy markets.
- Issued a childhood obesity report with recommendations on nutrition profiles of foods marketed to children, which led to adoption of a self-regulatory initiative by 11 major companies to promote healthier eating choices and lifestyles.
- Created the Office of International Affairs to better coordinate the FTC’s international competition, consumer protection, and technical assistance programs, and to bolster the agency’s new authority under the U.S. SAFE WEB Act.
Copies of the report are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 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 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.