Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez released the FTC’s 2015 Annual Highlights today, featuring some of the agency’s key efforts to benefit consumers and promote competition over the past calendar year.
“2015 was another busy year for the FTC fighting fraud and deception, as well as promoting competition and consumer choice,” Chairwoman Ramirez said. “In our law enforcement and policy work, we placed special emphasis on sectors of the economy that have the biggest impact on consumers, such as health care and the digital economy.”
The agency’s Enforcement Highlights address the Commission’s notable legal actions in a broad array of important industries, including health care, technology, and other consumer products and services. For example, in the healthcare sector, the Commission sought to ensure truthful advertising of weight-loss, cancer detection, and cognitive development claims. The Commission also continued its efforts to maintain competition in important healthcare markets, including filing suit to block three proposed hospital mergers, and requiring the divestitures of a number of lifesaving drugs to resolve competition concerns resulting from pharmaceutical industry mergers.
In the technology sector, the agency worked to protect consumers from fraud and deception in a rapidly changing marketplace, including stopping a deceptive crowdfunding campaign, halting the distribution of virtual currency-mining software through a gaming app, and tackling deceptive endorsements in online reviews and videos. In addition, the Commission also brought actions against technology companies to protect the privacy and security of consumers’ personal information. For example, the FTC settled charges that Oracle deceived consumers about the security provided by updates to its Java Platform, Standard Edition software (Java SE). Under the terms of a consent order, Oracle is required to give consumers the ability to easily uninstall unsecure, older versions of Java SE. The Commission also took action to preserve competition in the worldwide market for RF power amplifiers, which are semiconductors that are widely used in the wireless industry to ensure the proper functioning of mobile networks.
The Commission also actively challenged deceptive practices and anticompetitive mergers in industries providing a range of other consumer products and services. For example, the Commission brought several law enforcement actions to stop deceptive practices in the sale and financing of automobiles. In the food service industry, the Commission successfully challenged Sysco’s proposed acquisition of rival US Foods. Blocking the deal preserved competition in the market for broadline foodservice distribution both nationwide and in 32 local markets, benefitting restaurants, hospitals, hotels, and schools, and their patrons.
As noted in the Policy Highlights, the Commission filed amicus briefs in a number of cases in which the Commission’s experience and expertise could prove helpful to the court, including lawsuits involving prescription drug competition and debt collection. Staff also conducted a variety of workshops, with many focused on new and rapidly changing markets or technologies, such as the sharing economy, cross-device tracking, and new developments in healthcare provider organization and payment models. The FTC also continued to lead efforts to further strengthen mutual enforcement cooperation and sound policy with its international consumer protection and competition partners.
Finally, the FTC’s Education and Outreach Highlights recognize the agency’s work to alert businesses to compliance standards and educate consumers about the telltale signs of fraud and deceptive business practices. Among the agency’s many educational products released in 2015 are the Start with Security business education campaign and IdentityTheft.gov, a free one-stop resource people can use to report and recover from identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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