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Hearing of the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - The FTC at 100: Views from the Academic Experts


Location: Washington, DC

Today's hearing continues this Subcommittee's discussion on the important work of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC is required to prevent business practices that are anticompetitive and those that are deceptive or unfair to consumers. The responsibilities given to the FTC are broad--and rightly so, because our country needs an agency that can address, with flexibility, a wide variety of commercial conduct in order to safeguard consumers in the marketplace.

For the last 100 years, the FTC has been utilizing the FTC Act and other federal antitrust and consumer protection laws to conduct investigations, administrative proceedings, and judicial enforcement of commercial behavior that may violate the law.

The Bureau of Competition promotes vigorous competition and ample consumer choice by preventing anticompetitive mergers and other anticompetitive business practices in the marketplace. I am particularly glad to see the FTC closely scrutinizing potentially anticompetitive conduct in health care markets -- involving hospitals, pharmacies, medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, and others.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection promotes fair and transparent business practices by preventing scams, frauds, and other unfair or deceptive practices. While such practices can occur in any industry, the FTC is perhaps best known for its work with Do Not Call, which our constituents benefit from every day.

Today I would like to highlight the FTC's work on privacy and data security. No comprehensive federal law governs the collection, use, dissemination, or security of consumer data. This makes the FTC the principal ally of consumers in ensuring that companies employ reasonable data security measures for personal information and uphold their privacy promises.

In looking forward to the Federal Trade Commission's next chapter, our message should be more than: "Keep up the good work." As it enters its second century, the Commission must not be reluctant to adapt to changing markets, technologies, and consumer threats. It must apply its existing authorities in new ways and assume new roles, if necessary to preserve competitive markets, consumer choice, and fair and transparent business practices.

Congress must be an active partner with the FTC. We can start by encouraging the Commission to assert its Section 5 authority to challenge anticompetitive conduct, in whatever form it may take, and allow the FTC oversight over insurance, or, at a minimum, the ability to study insurance.

In addition, we should enact comprehensive privacy and data security laws that establish baseline standards of protection for consumer data and strengthen the FTC's enforcement authority. Furthermore, we should provide the agency with the tools it needs to operate in the 21st century, in the form of additional resources, general APA rulemaking authority, greater authority to assess civil penalties, and enhanced jurisdiction over non-profits and common carriers.

I am pleased to welcome the distinguished panel of professors testifying before us today. I encourage my colleagues to support those recommendations that will enhance, not diminish, the ability of the FTC to protect consumers from anticompetitive, unfair, or deceptive conduct. Thank you.

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