The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was established by the Federal Trade Commission Act in 1914. Its purpose is to protect consumers, and to prevent certain business practices that take advantage of consumers and squeeze other businesses out.
An example of this would be the FTC regulating companies from forming monopolies, or dominating the market. This is also known as antitrust regulation. The FTC protects both consumers and businesses. The following is a partial list of activities the FTC undertakes:
- Protecting consumers from false advertising and other forms of fraud;
- Enforcing a variety of laws related to consumer credit;
- Regulating business marketing and warranty practices; and
- Enforcing laws and trade regulation rules, and developing new rules to protect the marketplace.
The FTC's main goal is to ensure that the markets are vigorous, efficient, and free of restrictions. Thus, the FTC tries to enforce consumer protection laws that prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practices.
What Does the Bureau of Consumer Protection Do?
This Bureau of the FTC is responsible for enforcing rules created by the FTC, and laws enacted by Congress pertaining to consumer protections. Its actions include:
- Collecting complaints and conducting investigations;
- Suing companies and people that break the law;
- Making rules to maintain a fair marketplace; and
- Educating consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities.
The Bureau has eight regional offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta and Dallas. It also has eight divisions.
What are the Responsibilities of the Bureau’s Divisions?
The FTC has a wide range of responsibilities, but within the Bureau they have created separate divisions that oversee the following concerns:
- Division of Privacy and Identity Protection: handles issues related to identity theft, consumer privacy and credit reporting.
- Division of Advertising Practices: enforces federal truth-in-advertising laws.
- Division of Consumer and Business Education: produces educational materials in a variety of format to help consumer and business stay educated on their rights and responsibilities.
- Division of Enforcement: litigates and coordinates with law enforcement.
- Division of Marketing Practices: enforces consumer protection laws by filing actions on behalf of the FTC to stop scams, prevent scam artists from repeating their fraudulent schemes, freeze assets, and obtain compensation for victims.
- Division of Consumer Response and Operations: takes data and interprets it in order to determine whether the FTC’s efforts at consumer protection are successful.
- Division of Financial Practices: develops policy and enforces laws related to financial and lending practices affecting consumers.
- Division of Litigation Technology and Analysis: working with lawyers and determining efficacy of technology used in litigation.
How Does the FTC Bring an Action?
The FTC may decide to take action when it receives letters from consumers or businesses, pre-merger notification filings, Congressional inquiries or articles on consumer or economic subjects. The FTC's investigations are usually non-public. This protects the investigation and the companies involved.
If the FTC believes a company has violated the law, it may try to get voluntary compliance by entering into a consent order with the company.
This basically means that the company agrees to stop its practices. If the FTC cannot get such an agreement, it may issue an administrative complaint or seek injunctive relief from the courts.
If a violation is found, the company may be ordered to cease and desist. The FTC can also issue Trade Regulation Rules. During the rulemaking proceedings, the public can attend hearings and file written comments on a proposed rule.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Filed a Claim with the FTC?
The FTC is by its nature responsible for taking legal action based on consumers’ and others’ complaints. If you filed a complaint with the FTC and your complaint was ignored or nothing was resolved, then you can decide if you'd like to pursue a private civil action.
However, it's important to remember that complaints to the FTC take time to resolve, and you should hold onto all of your documents and records in case they cannot address you complaint right away. In the event that your complaint has legal merit, you may consider submitting your claim to a business lawyer if the FTC refuses to take action on your complaint.