The Federal Trade Commission testified before Congress on the agency’s long track record of protecting consumers and promoting competition in the U.S. economy, as well as the agency’s ongoing work and future challenges as it approaches its 100th anniversary next year.
Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioners Julie Brill, Maureen K. Ohlhausen and Joshua D. Wright told lawmakers that the FTC is a highly productive and efficient, small independent agency with jurisdiction to protect consumers and maintain competition in broad sectors of the economy.
“Our agency structure, research capacity, continued commitment to bipartisanship and cooperation, and exceptional staff will allow the FTC to continue to adapt to external changes and successfully fulfill its mission of protecting consumers and competition into its next century,” the testimony states.
President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act in 1914, and the FTC opened its doors on March 16, 1915. The Commission was given enforcement authority and was empowered to conduct investigations, gather information, and publish reports. Since then, Congress has expanded the FTC’s responsibilities through a number of other statutes, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; and the 1994 Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, which led to establishment of the popular National Do Not Call Registry.
The testimony outlines the FTC’s current work to protect consumers and promote competition. In recent years, the FTC has emphasized protecting financially distressed consumers from fraud, protecting consumer privacy and data security, prosecuting false or deceptive health claims, and safeguarding children in the marketplace.
In fiscal year 2013, the FTC filed 72 new consumer protection complaints in federal district court and obtained 100 permanent injunctions and orders (including two civil contempt orders) requiring defendants to pay approximately $198 million in consumer redress or disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.
The FTC’s efforts to maintain competition focus on stopping anticompetitive mergers and other anticompetitive business practices in a wide range of industries of critical importance to American consumers, the testimony states. These include health care, technology, energy, consumer goods and services, and manufacturing. This work is critical to protect and strengthen free and open markets – the cornerstone of a vibrant economy.
In fiscal year 2013, the agency pursued 27 new competition law enforcement actions (merger and nonmerger) and undertook several important workshops, reports, and advocacy opportunities to promote competition and educate its stakeholders about the importance of competition to consumers. Over the past three years, the agency estimated that it saved consumers approximately $3 billion in potential price increases by stopping illegal anticompetitive practices and mergers in the marketplace.
Finally, the testimony describes the challenges facing the FTC as it nears its 100th anniversary. In light of resource constraints and a growing workload, the FTC will continue to leverage its resources through careful case selection, by partnering with public and private entities, and by improving its own technological infrastructure to allow its staff to work more effectively, among other things.
The FTC will continue to adapt as technology continues to evolve. The agency convenes public meetings, such as its recent workshop exploring the Internet of Things, that help the agency to identify the consumer protection and competition issues that may be raised by the use of new technology.
In addition, the testimony states, the FTC will seek to address challenges posed by increased globalization and an international marketplace, and will continue its longstanding initiative to review FTC rules and guides to ensure that they enhance consumer welfare without imposing undue burdens on business.
“As we approach our 100th anniversary, the FTC remains committed to finding ways to enhance its effectiveness in protecting consumers and promoting competition, to anticipate and respond to changes in the marketplace, and to meet current and future challenges,” the testimony states.
The Commission vote approving the testimony and its inclusion in the formal record was 4-0.
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 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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