The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a bipartisan federal agency with a unique and important mission: protect consumers and promote competition.
In 2018, 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 successfully blocked two mergers, and two other deals were abandoned pre-trial in the face of an FTC challenge. The agency also accepted negotiated settlements to prevent harm in another ten transactions. The Commission brought new cases involving a variety of anticompetitive conduct, and obtained $448 million in the first successful federal court monopolization case alleging an abuse of government processes. The Commission also ordered online retailer 1-800 Contacts to end agreements with competitors that limited consumers’ ability to search for low-priced contact lenses online.
The FTC also enjoyed continued success on the consumer protection front. For example, the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) obtained $125 million in a settlement with MoneyGram, for not living up to its promises to reduce fraud. That money will go back to people who wired money through MoneyGram and lost it to scammers. The FTC and DOJ also mailed 1.1 million refund checks totaling more than $505 million to people deceived in a massive payday lending scheme. The Commission also set some new records for relief: its largest civil penalty against a background screening company; its largest civil penalty in a children’s privacy case, against a video social networking app; its largest judgment against an advertising agency; and its first case for violations of the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which ensures consumers can give honest reviews of products or services. The agency also brought charges against a recidivist con artist and temporarily shut down his scheme, the largest overseas real estate scam that the Commission has ever targeted. In a significant federal/state collaboration, the FTC coordinated Operation Donate with Honor, a law enforcement and education initiative to combat charities that falsely claimed to help veterans.