The Federal Trade Commission is a bipartisan federal agency with a unique and important mission: protect consumers and promote competition. In 2020, the FTC continued to promote competition by challenging harmful mergers and anticompetitive business conduct that harms consumers. As part of its active merger enforcement agenda, the Commission sued to block or unwind an unprecedented nine mergers and negotiated settlements to prevent harm in another 12 transactions. Ten other deals were abandoned in the face of antitrust concerns raised in FTC investigations.
The Commission also continued to build on its track record of aggressive and innovative non-merger antitrust enforcement, including a complaint against defendants Martin Shkreli and Kevin Mulleady along with the companies they used to protect a 4000% price increase on a life-saving drug, as well as the groundbreaking monopolization case against Facebook for illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly, which seeks to unwind Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.
On the consumer protection front, the Commission was quick to take action as the pandemic unfolded. The FTC employed a multi-prong strategy to halt unscrupulous marketers from taking advantage of consumers with false and deceptive claims related to supposed treatments for COVID-19. The FTC sued multiple companies that failed to deliver on promises to quickly ship critical personal protective equipment and companies that lured consumers into income scams. The agency also sent hundreds of warning letters, made sure that deceptive claims for hundreds of products were quickly removed, sued companies that did not correct their claims, and sent out more than one hundred blog posts to educate consumers about COVID-19 scams and remind businesses about their responsibilities regarding honest advertising.
Just as consumers were struggling to adapt to rapidly-changing circumstances, millions headed to virtual platforms to stay connected — and the FTC challenged misleading claims by Zoom that gave users a false sense of security about how their information was handled. The Commission continued its work on other fronts, too, including: distributing $483 million back to consumers who lost money to frauds; bringing its first law enforcement crackdown on deceptive claims related to cannabidiol (CBD) products; bringing its first case enforcing the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act; spearheading an initiative with federal and state partners to tackle schemes related to fake promises of financial independence; and launching a new user-friendly site where consumers can easily report scams.