Following a hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last month, Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter reaffirmed the need to restore the FTC’s ability to return money unlawfully taken from consumers. Acting Chairwoman Slaughter wrote the Committee to respond to arguments in a letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce regarding the Commission’s ability to use Section 13(b) of the FTC Act to seek consumer compensation in antitrust and consumer protection cases. The Acting Chairwoman’s letter explains that the Chamber’s argument against legislation to restore the FTC’s authority is based on fundamental misunderstandings of the history of Section 13(b), which in 2020 alone resulted in more than $483 million in refunds to consumers who lost money due to unlawful conduct.
Specifically, the letter explains that the Chamber’s proposals would allow companies and individuals to keep the gains they earned from breaking the law, hurt honest competitors who did not break the law, and leave consumers who suffered losses out in the cold.
On April 22, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers as it has over the past four decades in a wide variety of cases, including telemarketing fraud, anticompetitive pharmaceutical practices, data security and privacy, scams that target seniors and veterans, and deceptive business practices, among many others. In her letter, the Acting Chairwoman reiterated her support for legislation to swiftly restore Section 13(b) and preserve the FTC’s ability to enjoin illegal conduct, disgorge ill-gotten gains, and return to consumers money they have lost.
A copy of the Acting Chairwoman’s letter is available on the FTC’s website.