The Federal Trade Commission is a bipartisan law enforcement agency with a unique and important mission: protect consumers and promote competition without indirectly burdening legitimate business. In 2017, the FTC continued to promote competitive markets by challenging harmful mergers and seeking to stop anticompetitive business conduct. As part of its active merger enforcement agenda, the Commission blocked two mergers and challenged two others and accepted negotiated settlements to prevent harm in another 16 transactions. The Commission also brought cases involving a variety of anticompetitive conduct, including its first federal court monopolization case alleging an abuse of government processes. In another case, a pharmaceutical company agreed to pay $100 million to settle FTC charges that it illegally acquired the rights to develop a drug that threatened its U.S. monopoly.
On the consumer protection front, the FTC had many successes on behalf of consumers. For instance, the Commission obtained an historic civil penalty in the Dish Network case and led partners in a nationwide initiative against tech support schemes. The FTC also coordinated the first federal/state crackdown on student loan debt relief scams. In addition, the Commission negotiated a settlement with Western Union to return $586 million to consumers who lost money to scammers who had them pay with the money transfer system. The agency also brought its first case against individual online influencers for failing to disclose they owned the company they were promoting. This year, a federal court finalized the FTC’s second settlement with Volkswagen related to the company’s “clean diesel” claims. Consumers who bought 3.0-liter diesel vehicles will receive up to $1.2 billion in compensation for Volkswagen’s allegedly misleading claims. Below are some highlights of the FTC’s enforcement efforts over the last year. As these highlights show, the FTC remains vigilant to protect competition and consumers by staying abreast of technology, learning about the variety of consumer experiences, and looking into marketplace practices as they evolve.