Headline: Next, we see, the FTC

Body:   The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an agency of the Federal Government that was started by President Wilson in 1914 as a part of his “Trust-busting” strategy.    They have 2 related missions:

  1. Protect Consumers—If you remember the SNL skit on the “Baggo” line of toys, featuring the “Baggo Glass” shards of broken glass in a thin plastic bag, sold as a children’s toy, the FTC would be the agency to ensure that this “toy” does not hit the marketplace.
  2. Promote Competition.

The FTC is vital to the delivery on both missions, and does a lot of work to help educate consumers about potential dangers.   When there are problems, the FTC will work with law enforcement agencies to achieve justice.    They even work internationally with their partners.

Just a word of personal note: The FTC is not to be taken lightly.  I have taken a course on writing financial newsletters.  Shortly after completing  the course, I was looking around at several publishers of these newsletters for potential employment.   I vividly remember one website that was over-written with a prepared statement from the FTC.   It had completely shut down the website!  They are an agency not to be trifled with!

Protecting Consumers and Promoting Competition.

The FTC protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace.   Investigations are undertaken and suits are filed if deemed appropriate.    A very large portion of their portfolio is to educate consumers on what they can expect within the marketplace.   Less abstract, the FTC runs the National Do Not Call registry, and this affects your life each and every day.

The other portion of their mission is about ensuring competition within the marketplace.   Without sufficient competition, a firm could easily develop a niche where it offers ultra-expensive or inappropriate goods.   The FTC works many anti-trust cases to ensure that consumers get access to responsibly priced goods and services that meet their needs.

What does the FTC do?

Amongst its primary activities, the FTC investigates all types of fraud complaints and also investigates pre-merger applications for anti-trust violations.  Please remember that the FTC is empowered to investigate a single company or an entire industry, and then file a consent order or file an administrative complaint, to be heard in front of an Administrative Law Judge.  They also investigate scams and instances of deceptive marketing. 

Are there specific examples of the FTC doing their job?

In the early 1980s, the FTC took on the funeral home industry, and forced them to publish a General Price List for products and services.  In the later 1990s, this program was tightened when the Funeral Rule Offenders Program allowed them to pay a fine instead of going to Court.  In a more recent example, the FTC ordered Amazon to pay over $61 Million to some Amazon drivers, since they were unfairly retaining a portion of their tips.  Currently on-going, there is a fight over the Right to Repair. 

The Right to Repair.

Ever buy a new cellphone and then read the legal stuff included?   Nobody does.   But in the same pack of literature, there is a section that tells you, essentially, that Mecca and Rome will burn simultaneously  if you open your I-Phone or other Apple device.  Have you seen this?  They are trying to get you to either go to the Apple Store or buy a replacement device each time.

Recently, the FTC commissioners voted unanimously to allow the Right of Repair.  This is very important for at least 2 reasons:

  1.  Saves consumers a lot of money
  2. Minimizes sources of E-Waste.

The unanimous decision sends an important signal that more legal action and regulation are on their way that will work to protect the Right to Repair for the individual consumer.

The Verdict

The FTC serves a very important role within the consumer protection area.  Not too many people pay attention to them because other agencies have a sexier portfolio of responsibilities.  But, as it involves the individual consumer, it is difficult to think of a more important government agency.

If you DO find something you wish to report to the FTC, you can file your Complaint by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.







Editor’s Note: Please note that the information contained herein is meant only for general education: This should not be construed as Tax Advice.   Personal attributes could make a material difference in the advice given, so, before taking action, please consult your tax advisor or CPA.

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