FTC – Consumer & Antitrust Watchdog

While consumer spending is widely considered to be the driving force behind a country’s economic wellbeing, many consumers do not have the skills and knowhow to negotiate the minefield of modern financial systems, especially when it comes to making large purchases on credit. Recognizing the need to protect consumers, not only from unscrupulous suppliers, but also from their own tendency to live beyond their means, a number of consumer protection agencies and services have sprung up in the past few decades. As an independent agency of the US government, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one of the older organizations looking out for consumers. Established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act under the auspices of President Woodrow Wilson, the FTC has as its main objectives the protection of consumers, as well as preventing antitrust practices which are counterproductive to consumers and to the economy.

The FTC came about at a time in US history referred to the Progressive Era, which led to reforms in many different aspects of society and business. Putting a stop to anti-competitive, or anti-trust, activities was high on the political agenda at the time, leading to many monopolies being uncovered and dealt with according to the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 and other antitrust laws, many of which were based on the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

Headed up by five commissioners nominated by the President of the United States, with no more than three of the five permitted to be from the same political party, the FTC incorporates a Bureau of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Competition and Bureau of Economics. The FTC investigates reports from consumers and businesses regarding matters such as false advertising and various forms of fraud and scams, as well as assessing potential anti-trust violations relating to pre-merger notifications, taking action as is deemed necessary for each individual case.

As the US works its way to economic recovery, the Federal Trade Commision continues in its quest to hold companies accountable for their conduct in an era where mergers and buyouts are multi-billion dollar undertakings which often make the shareholders happy, while putting workers out of their jobs and limiting consumer choices through the creation of monopolies, duopolies or oligopolies.