The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of what regulators perceive to be harmfully anti-competitive business practices.
In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission reported that identify theft was the top consumer complaint. Of the 1.8 million complaints to the agency, 279,156 or 15 percent concerned identity theft. One of the latest scams involves individuals who are filing tax returns of other individuals and collecting their tax refunds with the help of dishonest postal workers.
Facebook has also had occasional brushes with privacy watchdogs, for which the social network has become something of a bête noire. Last year Facebook incurred the wrath of America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The commission had been inundated with complaints that the company was making public data about its users that it had said would be kept private. As part of a settlement with the FTC, Facebook agreed to submit to an external audit of its privacy policies and practices every two years for the next 20 years.
About 30 million Americans have debt under collection, the CFPB says, with an average amount under collection of $1,400.
Cordray said that debt collectors have more complaints lodged against them by consumers than any other industry according to a database maintained by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC has in the past pursued cases on behalf of consumers against debt collection firms. But that agency doesn't officially supervise the industry, examining records for potential violations of law the way the CFPB intends to do.
America has avoided overly prescriptive privacy legislation, believing that companies should generally regulate themselves. Only when firms fail at self-regulation does the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) step in. It has broad powers to tackle unfair and deceptive practices, and has not hesitated to use them. In recent rulings, Google and Facebook agreed to a biennial audit of their privacy policies and practices for the next 20 years.
Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces limited Internet privacy laws, and Cameron F. Kerry, general counsel for the Commerce Department, said at a hearing of the Senate commerce committee that writing new laws and giving the F.T.C. the power to enforce them with civil penalties would promote Internet commerce by increasing the trust that Americans put in online transactions.
Currently, the F.T.C. monitors whether Internet companies that have privacy policies keep their promises to consumers about when and where they will share personal information. But the commission lacks the authority to assess penalties for most transgressions, and it has little authority over how companies operate when they have no written privacy rules.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have signed an agreement to coordinate efforts to protect consumers and avoid duplication of federal law enforcement and regulatory efforts.
“Entering this agreement with the FTC is important to making sure markets for consumer financial products are getting efficient and effective federal government oversight,” said Richard Cordray, Director of the CFPB. “We are both motivated by the same thing: To do right by consumers. We look forward to this partnership.”
The period from 1970 to the present has witnessed profound changes in the quality of regulation at the Federal Trade Commission and a remarkable convergence of antitrust enforcement policy between left and right, and between primarily legal as opposed to primarily economic approaches. Since the early 1990s, the effort at the Federal Trade Commission has been to find a middle ground that avoids the extremes of over- and under-enforcement.
After a decade of cutbacks and politically motivated inactivity, the Federal Trade Commission awakened from its slumber in the 1990s. Good information systems enable staff to maintain productivity. But dissatisfaction with the five-person appointed commission is still pervasive, largely due to serious delays in decision making. The 79-year-old antitrust and consumer protection arm of the government is also hampered by cumbersome procedures.
Today, the FTC is an independent agency which reports directly to Congress. The commission is headed by five commissioners, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, each serving a seven-year term. The president chooses one commissioner to act as chairman. No more than three commissioners can be of the same political party. The commission is further divided into bureaus and divisions, which are responsible for various aspects of FTC operations.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission weighed in on the topic of consumer privacy with a new report that essentially says individuals need more protection than the rules and guidelines in place today provide. ”The traditional distinction between personally identifiable information and ‘anonymous’ data has blurred,” the agency says in its report. It says companies need to “make privacy the ‘default setting’ for commercial data practices and give consumers greater control over the collection and use of their personal data.”
In the 1912 campaign Woodrow Wilson promised to wage “a crusade against powers that have governed us … that have limited our development … that have determined our lives … that have set us in a straightjacket to so as they please.” The struggle to break up the trusts would be, in Wilson’s words, nothing less than a “second struggle for emancipation.”
Wilson lived up to his words – signing into law the Clayton Antitrust Act (which not only strengthened antitrust laws but also exempted unions from their reach), establishing the Federal Trade Commission (to root out “unfair acts and practices in commerce”), and creating the first national income tax.
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