The FTC is a bipartisan federal agency with a unique and important mission: to protect consumers and promote competition. In 2019, the FTC protected consumers from higher prices and other harm by challenging anticompetitive mergers and conduct. For example, the FTC continued to scrutinize mergers between large incumbents and smaller rivals, and challenged those that threatened innovation and other important types of competition. The FTC took action to prevent harm to competition in U.S. markets for microprocessor prosthetic knees and next-generation DNA sequencing systems. The FTC also challenged mergers that were likely to lead to higher prices and reduce quality for consumer staples, such as, most recently, private label ready-to-eat cereals and wet shave razors. The Commission also continues to combat a variety of anticompetitive conduct that keeps prices high and options few, bringing new cases in novel areas of the law. In the past year, the FTC brought its first monopolization case against a multisided health information platform, its first case alleging illegal product hopping as a method of maintaining a monopoly for a life-saving drug, and, most recently, a case filed with the New York Attorney General (NY AG), alleging that a pharmaceutical company engaged in an illegal scheme to protect its monopoly and charge high prices for off-patent drugs.
In 2019 on the consumer protection front, the Commission returned more than $232 million in refunds to consumers across the country. The FTC’s actions resulted in a settlement requiring a for-profit school to pay $50 million in cash and cancel $141 million in debt owed to the school by students who were harmed by the deceptive ads. The FTC also obtained a $170 million settlement with a video-sharing platform for failing to protect children’s privacy. The Commission forged new ground with its first case to challenge fake paid reviews on an independent retail site and its first case against a VOIP service provider for a key role in promoting a deceptive scheme. The Commission brought other enforcement actions against fraudsters involved in imposter scams, pyramid schemes, phony business opportunities, illegal robocalls, and deceptive and unfair loan servicing practices.