In Senate Testimony, FTC Highlights Work to Protect Consumers, Promote Competition

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, the Federal Trade Commission described its work to protect consumers and promote competition through vigorous enforcement, education, advocacy, and policy work, and by anticipating and responding to changes in the marketplace.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission, Chairman Joseph J. Simons noted that the FTC’s jurisdiction includes privacy and data security, consumer fraud, mergers and acquisitions, and anticompetitive tactics by pharmaceutical and other companies. During FY 2018, the FTC returned over $83 million in redress to consumers and deposited over $10 million into the U.S. Treasury, reflecting collections in both consumer protection and competition matters, the testimony states. In addition, Commission actions required defendants to self-administer refund programs worth more than $1.6 billion during FY 2018.

In 2020, the FTC is requesting $312.3 million and 1,140 FTEs. The increase of $2.6 million over the FY2019 appropriation is for expert witnesses and IT modernization, according to the testimony.

As the nation’s primary consumer protection agency, the FTC has a broad mandate to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the marketplace, and to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities, the testimony notes.

The FTC has expanded its focus on privacy to reflect the growing collection, use, and sharing of consumer data in the commercial marketplace, and has aggressively pursued privacy and data security cases, according to the testimony. As part of its mission to protect consumers, the agency’s fraud program tracks down and stops some of the most egregious scams that prey on U.S. consumers, including defendants who blast consumers with illegal robocalls, operate sham charities, or deceptively pose as the government or well-known tech companies. The agency also has brought cases challenging false and unsubstantiated health claims, including those targeting older consumers and individuals affected by the opioid crisis.

The FTC also enforces U.S. antitrust law in many sectors that directly affect consumers and their wallets, such as health care, consumer products and services, technology, manufacturing, and energy, the testimony states. In FY 2018, the Commission took enforcement actions against 22 different mergers. Most were resolved through a consent decree, but the agency challenged five mergers in court. The Commission also has continued its decades-long efforts to fight anticompetitive conduct in the pharmaceuticals and health care industries, the testimony notes. Last month, the Commission filed a complaint against health information company Surescripts, alleging that it illegally maintained its monopolies over two electronic prescribing markets.

In an effort to more closely monitor developments in the technology sector, as described in the testimony, the FTC’s recently announced Technology Task Force will examine industry practices, conduct law enforcement investigations, and coordinate and consult with staff throughout the FTC on technology-related matters, including prospective merger reviews and reviews of consummated technology mergers. 

The Commission vote authorizing the testimony was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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