11. THE NEW, IMPROVED FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION SLOGAN:
Since 1914, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been charged with
protecting the consumer from business fraud, deceptive advertising,
hazardous products, and other risks to a fair marketplace, including
mergers and similar anti-competitive practices. Now the FTC needs protection.
Before his term expired on September 25, 1984, Michael Pertschuk, FTC
Commissioner and former Chairman, submitted a 242-page well-documented
indictment of the FTC's performance under the direction of the Reagan-appointed
chairman, James Miller. The charges about the subversion of the nation's
consumer watchdog agency were ignored by the nation's press. Pertschuk
charged that "The current FTC leadership, under Chairman James
C. Miller, has been consumed with a single-minded determination to undo
the past -- not just the immediate past -- but the very foundations
of antitrust and consumer protection law laid down by Congress in 1914,
in 1938, in 1950, and in 19?5..." A few of the examples cited by
American consumers are forced or misled into paying more for less reliable
goods and are less likely to obtain redress for the repair or replacement
of shoddy or defective products: The FTC has not brought a single new
action against a major product defect in 3 years, despite the fact that
the Commission has known about several major suspected defects.
The FTC's failure to take timely action has placed consumers' health
and safety needlessly at risk: The Commission delayed investigations
and actions against potential life-threatening defects in children's
playground equipment, rental cars, and deep sea survival suits; and
buried the Food Advertising Rule which would have required food advertisers
to disclose critical health information about the high fat and calorie
content of foods misleadingly sold as healthful.
Increasing exploitation of children and young adults: the commission
refused to initiate a serious investigation or bring action against
beer, hard liquor, and cigarette advertising aimed at youth.
Neglecting consumer grievances of older Americans: buried an effort
to require mobile home manufacturers to stand behind their warranty
promises to repair significant defects; abandoned efforts to promote
its model generic drug substitution law, which could help older consumers
save millions of dollars in prescription drug costs.
Failed to challenge a single vertical or conglomerate merger: the nine
largest mergers in U.S. history occurred during the 1981-84 period under
Chairman Miller's direction.
In presenting his report to the FTC, Pertschuk said: "This report
may well be unique. To the best of my knowledge no sitting Commissioner
... has ever submitted so comprehensive and documented account of an
agency's performance." It is unfortunate the press did not find
it so unique or worthy of coverage.
FTC REVIEW (1977-84): A REPORT PREPAREB BY A MEMBER OF THE FEDERAL
TRADE COMMISSION, by Michael Pertschuk, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. September 1984.