Highlights Agency Accomplishments to Protect Consumers and Competition
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz today issued the FTC’s 2011 Annual Report at the American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law Spring Meeting in Washington, DC, highlighting the agency’s continued efforts to protect financially distressed consumers and promote competition during the economic downturn.
“Over the past year, the FTC has challenged unscrupulous business practices and anticompetitive mergers, shut down shady operations and deceptive marketing campaigns, and protected consumers’ privacy and their pocketbooks,” Chairman Leibowitz said. “The agency’s actions in the past 12 months have had far-reaching effects in protecting consumers and competition in critical sectors of our economy – from high tech to health care, financial services to online commerce.”
The 2011 report is available now on the FTC’s website and describes the agency’s accomplishments during the previous year, including:
- Promoting competition to rein in health care costs. The Commission had an active year in federal court, working to stop costly anticompetitive pay-for-delay patent settlements and consolidation among health care facilities. The FTC also is part of an interagency effort to develop new health care policies that rely on competition to help control the costs of health care.
- Settling charges that Intel Corp. excluded chip rivals. To settle charges that it illegally used its dominant position for a decade to stifle competition and strengthen its computer chip monopoly, Intel agreed to no longer retaliate against computer manufacturers who do business with its rivals. The FTC’s consent order clears the way for competition unfettered by Intel’s exclusionary conduct.
- Revising the Horizontal Merger Guidelines. In the first major update in 18 years, the 2010 Horizontal Merger Guidelines more accurately reflect how the federal antitrust agencies identify and evaluate mergers that are likely to harm competition. The revised Guidelines, issued jointly by the FTC and the Department of Justice, provide more clarity and predictability for businesses.
- Protecting financially stressed consumers. The FTC continued stepped up efforts to protect consumers struggling to make ends meet, with major enforcement sweeps to stop job scams, business opportunity fraud, medical discount fraud, and debt and mortgage relief schemes. The FTC also finalized two rules to prohibit companies from charging advance fees for debt relief and mortgage assistance services.
- Releasing a staff report on privacy issues. Based on more than 40 years of enforcing privacy law, FTC staff proposed a framework to balance consumer privacy with industry innovation in the 21st century. Key recommendations include: 1) “privacy by design,” 2) simplified consumer choice, including 3) increased transparency of data practices.
- Bringing cases against national advertisers. The FTC challenged health claims made by several national food advertisers, including Dannon Company, Kellogg Company, Nestlé HealthCare Nutrition, Inc., and POM Wonderful, and strengthened order language. These actions make clear that no advertiser can make disease prevention and health benefit claims without real substantiation.
- Developing social media at the agency. The agency has information that tech-savvy consumers need to make informed choices, manage their finances, stay safe online, and avoid fraud. Consumers looking for up-to-date information on how to avoid the latest scams and schemes can now “like” the FTC on Facebook, “follow us” on Twitter, or check out educational videos on the FTC’s YouTube channel.
- Combating cross-border fraud to protect consumers. Using a key information sharing provision of the U.S. SAFE WEB Act of 2006, the Commission and Canadian authorities worked together to preserve for consumer redress the assets of an international robocall ring that allegedly conned nearly 13,000 consumers out of $995 each with false promises that it would reduce their credit card interest rates.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. “Like” the FTC on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.