Factsheet: The FTC is Holding Corporate Actors Accountable, Protecting Small Businesses, Workers, and Consumers
Updated September 2022.
The Federal Trade Commission, led by Chair Lina Khan, has entered a new era of more effective, modern, and democratic enforcement to better protect consumers, workers, and independent businesses. While navigating a leadership transition during a pandemic, an historic merger wave, and unprecedented economic dominance driven by rampant concentration, Chair Khan is steering the FTC to protect working families and honest businesses with stronger law enforcement. Under her leadership, the FTC is:
Enforcing Existing Rules to Hold Significant Corporate Actors Accountable
Protected Consumers and Small Businesses from Corporate Fraud and Deception
- Launched an investigation to enforce the law against pharmacy benefit managers for engaging in commercial bribery and illegal kickbacks that raise the price of drugs like insulin and put independent pharmacies out of business.
- Sued retail giant Walmart for facilitating money transfer fraud that cost consumers at least $197 million possibly as much as $1.3 billion, while pocketing millions in fees.
- Filed a federal district court complaint to halt Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, from airing bogus advertisements pitching “free” tax filings that a vast majority of taxpayers can’t use.
- Led a lawsuit — along with six state attorneys general — against Roomster for misrepresenting themselves with fake reviews and phony listings to consumer seeking affordable housing.
Resurrected the Long-Dormant Penalty Offense Authority to Punish and Deter Corporate Wrongdoing
- Revived the dormant Penalty Offense Authority to ensure corporations that knowingly break the law are penalized, bolstering the FTC’s ability to claw back money for consumers.
- The FTC first resurrected the authority in 2021 with unanimous votes to put on notice:
Stood Up to Big Tech and Protected Privacy in the Digital Age
- Sued to block Facebook’s acquisition of virtual reality app developer Within, naming Mark Zuckerberg specifically and demonstrating a commitment to protecting fair competition in nascent digital markets.
- Voted unanimously to adopt a policy statement reaffirming the agency’s authority to enforce meaningful limitations on Big Tech’s ability to collect, use, and retain children’s data.
- Issued a landmark report proving the leading internet service providers (ISPs) collect and sell more data than consumers know — including full browsing history, location data, sexual orientation, and more.
- Strengthened the Safeguards Rule to require banks to protect customer data following widespread data breaches that led to financial losses and identity theft.
- Protected over 100 million app users by requiring that sensitive health data to not be shared with Facebook and Google without permission.
- Banned shady actor SpyFone and its CEO from the surveillance business and ordered them to delete all secretly stolen data.
- Successfully refiled an antitrust suit against Facebook for alleging an illegal buy or bury scheme.
- Sued data broker Kochava for selling geolocation data that can be used to track people at addiction recovery facilities, reproductive health clinics, places of worship, shelters, and other sensitive locations.
- Hosted a public forum and opened public comments to determine whether to issue rules addressing commercial surveillance, data hoovering, and lax data security practices to protect consumers from Big Tech’s dominance in the information economy.
Blocking Illegal Mergers and Promoting Competitive Markets
FTC, DOJ Opened Merger Guidelines Review to Small Businesses, Workers, Consumers
- The FTC and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division launched a public inquiry on modernized merger guidelines in a joint effort to strengthen enforcement against illegal mergers that drive higher prices, lower wages, and less innovation.
- They received almost 6,000 public comments – approximately 187x more than a previous merger guideline rewriting in 2010 – from entrepreneurs, small businesses, workers, and consumers who have experienced firsthand the effects of mega-mergers and acquisitions.
- The FTC and DOJ also hosted joint listening forums that included grocers, health care professionals, farmers, innovators in biotechnology, media and entertainment, and technology workers, who shared their personal experiences on the effects of previous mergers.
Challenged Monopolies and Rampant Consolidation, Including Successfully Blocking Illegal Vertical Mergers
- Investigated whether industry consolidation was responsible for the national infant formula shortage, pledging to scrutinize whether formula makers and distributors engaged in illegal economic discrimination to limit the availability of formula from retailers.
- Sued to block seven different mergers in defense contracting, hospitals, and more, including vertical mergers like Lockheed Martin-Aerojet and Nvidia-Arm, with all transactions later abandoned.
- Cracked down on private equity roll-ups to protect small businesses and good jobs, including preventing JAB Consumer Partners from consolidating control over specialty and emergency veterinary clinics.
Restored the Right to Repair with Unanimous Vote
- Unanimously moved to enforce the “Right to Repair” against corporations that make it difficult to repair their products.
- The FTC’s announcement was hailed by advocates and followed by Apple announcing new public access to parts and repair manuals, reversing decades of restrictive repair policies.
- Launched an inquiry into repair terms surrounding McDonald’s perpetually nonfunctioning ice cream machines.
- Launched a public comment period to gather more information about a broader set of one-sided contract terms that may harm fair competition.
Protecting Consumers from Abusive Tricks and Scams
Returned Millions to Working Americans and Curbed Subscription Traps
- Returned over $135 million to working families across the country after it was stolen, swindled, or scammed from them, including:
- Investigated DeVry University, which led to the U.S. Department of Education forgiving $71.7 million in federal student loans for students deceived by the for-profit college.
- Ramped-up enforcement against illegal subscription traps in response to a rising number of complaints about deceptive sign-up tactics, unauthorized charges, and ongoing billing that is impossible to cancel.
Cracked Down on Made in America Fraud Harming Ranchers and Consumers
- Defended American entrepreneurs by issuing a new rule that cracks down on false “Made In USA” labels often used by dominant meatpacking conglomerates.
- The new rule especially benefits small businesses that rely on their Made in America labels, but lack the resources to defend themselves from imitators.
- It also protects and incentivizes U.S. production by requiring companies to prove their products are “all or virtually all” made in the United States if they are to use Made In America labels.