Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, and fellow Commissioners Harbour, Leibowitz, Kovacic, and Rosch today presented FTC testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, requesting $240 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 million from the FTC’s FY 2007 budget request.
“The FTC has pursued a vigorous and effective law enforcement program in a dynamic marketplace that is increasingly global and characterized by changing technologies. Through the efforts of a dedicated, professional staff, the FTC continues to handle a growing workload,” the testimony stated. “The FTC is the only federal agency with both consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy. The agency enforces laws that prohibit business practices that are harmful to consumers because they are anticompetitive, deceptive, or unfair, and it promotes informed consumer choice and understanding of the competitive process.”
According to the testimony, $8.8 million of the requested budget increase would be used for mandatory salary and contract expenses, $1.4 million would provide 10 new full-time employees for the consumer protection mission’s Privacy and Identity Protection Program, and $4.5 million would fund consumer protection outreach and enforcement efforts, including $2 million for the “media literacy” initiative, $1.6 million for electronic litigation support and E-Gov and information technology initiatives, $1.3 million for Do Not Call registration renewals and outreach, $100,000 to increase enforcement efforts to combat spyware, $100,000 to promote industry self-regulation in the marketing of entertainment and food to children, and $900,000 for facility reconditioning, equipment replacement, records management, and human capital and support needs.
“During FY2008, 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 noted, 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 will continue to be on merger and nonmerger enforcement, particularly in the health care, energy, and high technology industries.
The testimony outlined the FTC’s major consumer protection accomplishments in FY 2006. The agency obtained 93 court orders requiring defendants to pay more than $309 million in consumer redress, obtained 24 court judgments for civil penalties totaling more than $27 million, filed 60 complaints in federal district court to stop unfair and deceptive practices, completed 13 statutorily-mandated rulemakings and other statutorily-mandated requirements such as reports, led three law enforcement sweeps, hosted 11 conferences and workshops, filed 24 consumer advocacy comments, issued 11 reports on topics significant to consumers, and developed 79 consumer and business education campaigns.
Citing the agency’s work in fulfilling its competition mission during the past year, the testimony highlighted several successful efforts, including preventing agreements between drug companies that delay generic entry; blocking market concentration that would increase prices in the pharmaceutical, medical devices, and diagnostic systems industries; challenging anticompetitive mergers in the energy industry; prohibiting multiple listing services from discriminating against non-traditional listing arrangements in real estate markets; implementing merger process reforms to reduce costs borne by the FTC and merging parties; and implementing, with the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, an electronic filing system to allow merging parties to submit, via the Internet, premerger notification filings required by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.
The testimony also noted the creation of the FTC’s Office of International Affairs in January 2007, combining the international functions of the Competition and Consumer Protection bureaus and the Office of the General Counsel for better enforcement and to promote convergence toward best practices with counterpart agencies around the world.
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 on the FTC’s Web site at www.ftc.gov. The FTC’s Bureau of Competition seeks to prevent business practices that restrain competition. The Bureau carries out its mission by investigating alleged law violations and, when appropriate, recommending that the Commission take formal enforcement action. To notify the Bureau concerning particular business practices, call or write the Office of Policy and Evaluation, Room 394, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Washington, DC 20580, Electronic Mail: email@example.com; Telephone (202) 326-3300. For more information on the laws that the Bureau enforces, the Commission has published “Promoting Competition, Protecting Consumers: A Plain English Guide to Antitrust Laws,” which can be accessed at http://www.ftc.gov/bc/compguide/index.shtm.