The Federal Trade Commission testified today before the House Judiciary Committee on the agency’s work to ensure open, competitive, and fair markets and to protect consumers from fraud, scams and other deceptive practices.
In Commission testimony delivered by Chair Lina M. Khan, the FTC highlighted its activities and initiatives as well as challenges facing the agency as it works to fulfill its dual mission of promoting competition and protecting American consumers from unfair or deceptive practices in the marketplace.
On the competition side, the FTC has renewed its commitment to use all of the authorities provided by Congress to target illegal mergers and conduct. Over the past 18 months, the FTC has moved to challenge major transactions in critical sectors of the economy, including semiconductors, defense, energy, healthcare, mortgage technology, digital markets, and pharmaceuticals. This includes filing suit to block nine mergers outright,as well as scrutinizing 13 other anticompetitive mergers that parties have abandoned after the agency indicated competition concerns but before it filed a complaint.
Given a heavy merger workload, the FTC continues to maintain and develop a robust program to identify and stop anticompetitive practices. Last year, the FTC worked with a bipartisan coalition of 10 state attorneys general to charge the two largest pesticides manufacturers, Syngenta Crop Protection and Corteva, Inc., with paying distributors to block competitors from selling cheaper generic products to farmers—which cost farmers billions of dollars. And in January, the Commission proposed a rule that would ban employers from imposing noncompete restrictions on workers in all but a limited set of circumstances.
The Commission has also used its authority to conduct market-wide inquiries examining new business practices and market trends. For example, in June 2022, the Commission authorized a 6(b) study of the contracting practices of pharmacy benefits managers aimed at shedding light on the opaque operations of these large pharmacy middlemen who can dictate pricing and access to life-saving drugs for so many Americans.
On the consumer protection side, the FTC is redoubling its efforts to use all the tools Congress has provided the FTC to combat fraud and protect consumer privacy. In the last year and a half alone, the FTC brought its first enforcement actions under the Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act; the Health Breach Notification Rule; the Military Lending Act; and the Made in USA Labeling Rule.
The FTC also has brought multiple actions using authority under existing rules such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). For example, in December 2022 the FTC announced a law enforcement action against Epic Games, Inc., the maker of the popular video game Fortnite, and obtained novel relief for consumers and a record civil penalty of $275 million over charges the company violated COPPA and imposed unfair default privacy settings on children and teens. In a related action, the FTC obtained $245 million for consumer refunds from Epic for allegedly engaging in unfair billing practices.
Given the limitations on the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers following the Supreme Court’s 2021 AMG decision, the FTC has also proposed rules and is currently seeking comment on potential rules to address some of the most widespread scams.
To help support our competition and consumer protection missions, the FTC has also taken steps to broaden the agency’s institutional skillsets. Earlier this year, the FTC launched a new Office of Technology to strengthen the agency’s ability to keep pace with technological challenges in the digital marketplace.
The Commission voted 3-0 to approve the Commission’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.