Welcome to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 2017 Annual Highlights outlining our most significant achievements promoting competition and protecting consumers. Throughout 2017, the FTC vigorously enforced competition and consumer protection laws, extended the agency’s efforts to protect consumer privacy, promoted economic liberty, boosted efforts to provide guidance to small businesses, and reduced excessive regulations and bureaucracy that create significant burdens on the public.
The FTC plays an indispensable role in ensuring that the American economy remains competitive and continues to foster innovation and growth, to the benefit of all consumers, based on sound free-market principles. In 2017, the FTC successfully challenged harmful mergers and stopped anticompetitive business conduct. As part of its active merger enforcement, the FTC blocked two mergers and challenged two others, while accepting negotiated settlements to prevent harm in another 16 transactions. The federal courts continued to validate the FTC’s competition work in two important health care mergers involving physician services (Sanford/Mid-Dakota Clinic) and hospitals (Advocate/NorthShore).
The FTC has also pursued a robust consumer protection agenda. For example, the agency, along with 11 states and the District of Columbia, launched a coordinated federal-state law enforcement initiative, dubbed “Operation Game of Loans,” to target deceptive student loan debt relief scams. In a landmark victory for the FTC, a federal court ordered Dish Network to pay $280 million in civil penalties and to stop alleged violations of the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule and other federal and state laws. Overall, this past year the FTC filed or settled 85 consumer protection matters in district court, reached 24 administrative consent agreements related to consumer protection, and distributed over $269 million in redress to over 3 million consumers. The FTC also extended its vigorous enforcement and educational efforts to protect consumer privacy and data security, announcing 9 privacy cases and 3 data security cases and issuing additional business guidance.
Our policy efforts continued to be strong in 2017, with numerous advocacy comments, amicus briefs, Congressional testimony, workshops, and community events. We also launched my signature Economic Liberty Taskforce to work with numerous stakeholders to identify and eliminate unnecessary or overbroad occupational licensing restrictions that threaten economic liberty, many of which are particularly harmful to military families who relocate frequently, and low-income Americans.
Finally, my fellow Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and I want to thank the FTC’s dedicated staff for their unwavering commitment to protect consumers and promote competition. Their dedication to the FTC’s dual missions is unparalleled.
Maureen K. Ohlhausen