Monday, April 16, 2007

FTC Commissioners Highlight Agency’s Record at Senate Hearing

This posting was written by John Scorza, CCH Washington Correspondent.

The Federal Trade Commission will focus its competition enforcement efforts in fiscal 2008 on the health care, energy, and high-tech industries, FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said in testimony to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on April 10.

The agency’s consumer-protection efforts will involve a broad range of issues, including identity theft, deceptive advertising, financial services, spam, and spyware, according to the Chairman.

“During [fiscal year] 2008, the FTC will address significant law enforcement and policy issues throughout the U.S. economy and abroad, devoting major portions of its resources to those areas in which the agency can provide the greatest benefits to consumers,” Majoras testified.

All five members of the commission, including Majoras, appeared at the hearing to highlight the agency’s recent activities.

Consumer Protection

In fiscal 2006, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection obtained 93 court orders requiring defendants to pay more than $309 million in consumer redress, obtained 24 court judgments for civil penalties totaling more than $27 million, and filed 60 complaints in federal district court to stop unfair and deceptive practices.

Merger Enforcement

The agency’s Bureau of Competition reviewed 16 mergers. In nine of those cases, the parties abandoned the mergers. The parties restructured their proposed deals in the remaining seven cases, Majoras said. The FTC’s reviews included proposed mergers in the pharmaceutical, medical devices, energy, and real estate industries.

Some lawmakers on the Commerce Committee raised concerns about the agency’s merger enforcement record, oversight of the energy and pharmaceutical industries, and issues relating to spam and spyware.

Vigorous, Effective Enforcement Program

Majoras sought to reassure the senators. “The FTC has pursued a vigorous and effective law enforcement program in a dynamic marketplace that is increasingly global and characterized by changing technologies,” she testified.

To support its activities, the agency is requesting a budget in $240 million for 2008, an increase of $17 million over its 2007 budget request.

A news release, the Prepared Statement of the Federal Trade Commission, and oral statements by Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, Commissioner William Kovacic, and Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch appear at the FTC web site.

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