On December 3, 2013, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade (CMT) held a hearing entitled “The FTC at 100: Where Do We Go From Here?” CMT Subcommittee Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) chaired the hearing. At the hearing, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioners Julie Brill, Maureen Ohlhausen, and Joshua Wright testified and presented the Prepared Statement of the Federal Trade Commission.

The Commission’s testimony focused on the accomplishments of the FTC in protecting consumers over the recent past through the Commission’s efforts aimed at: stopping fraud and harmful uses of technology; ensuring privacy and data security of consumer information; bringing actions against companies making false or deceptive health claims; and enforcing children’s privacy laws. The written testimony specified that the FTC has: “(1) stopped foreclosure rescue scams and deceptive payday lending practices; (2) taken aggressive enforcement actions to stop illegal robocalls and hosted a public challenge to find technological solutions to the problem; (3) held a public workshop and issued a report examining mobile payment systems; (4) prosecuted operations that placed unauthorized charges on consumers’ mobile phone bills; (5) sued companies that made false or unsubstantiated claims that their dietary supplements prevent or treat serious diseases; and (6) brought actions that protect the privacy choices of well over one billion people.”

Chairman Terry’s opening statement struck a balance between recognizing the FTC’s recent accomplishments, but also raising concerns that spring from “the sheer breadth of the FTC’s jurisdiction.” He remarked that certain issues “take the Commission away from the scope in which Congress legislated” and “add to the regulatory uncertainty many businesses already feel.” For example, he questioned whether the Commission’s use of its authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act to address “unfair and deceptive trade practices” requires a “coherent statement of policy on how the Commission plans to enforce Section 5” because “many businesses—large and small—are left to examine past decisions to see how they may fit into the specific facts of that case.” Chairman Terry also suggested that an area ripe for review is “how the Commission uses its authority to address the use and security of data.”

By contrast, in his opening statement, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) stated, “Several statutory constraints also affect the FTC’s work. These include the requirement to work through the Department of Justice most times it wishes to seek civil penalties. It also includes the statutory requirement to use the slow and burdensome Magnuson-Moss rulemaking procedures, instead of traditional Administrative Procedure Act (APA) rulemaking which most other agencies are able to use. Despite these limitations, the FTC has brought about many significant achievements for the good of consumers.” [insert link to: http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Statement-Waxman-CMT-FTC-at-100-2013-12-3.pdf].

For more information about this hearing, you may view an archived webcast of the hearing and view or download the hearing notice, witness list, Republican members’ opening statements and Republican staff hearing memorandum here. You may view Committee Democrat’s opening statements and staff memorandum here.