Consumer Protection: the Federal Trade Commission

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In the 21st century, major strides were made to improve the life of the consumer. One of the most beneficial strides was the continuous development of the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, is a federal agency that aims to protect consumers by regulating unfairness, fraud, and deception in the marketplace. It is separated into three bureaus: Bureau of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Competition, and Bureau of Economics. Today, the FTC serves as a guardian for both consumer and business rights. 

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With the rise of new technologies, FTC is crucial because it provides the safeguards necessary to protect consumers from privacy and security breaches. The federal agency also ensures the enforcement of policy and regulation efforts to keep pace with the changes in the economy, evolving business practices, and technological advancements. The Bureau of Consumer Protection carries out the FTC’s mandate to protect consumers. These divisions include: Marketing Practices, Privacy and Identity Protection, Financial Practices, Advertising Practices, etc. 

The top 4 complaints that have surfaced throughout the 21st century center on: imposter scams, debt collection, identity theft, and telephone and mobile services. These categories give the agency the ability to prioritize on consumer protection laws. The first step that the FTC took, on dealing with these issues oriented on the division of Marketing Practices. Prior to 2003, unsought for telemarketing calls were somewhat of a recurring factor in consumers everyday life. Typically, these could be credit card offers, newspaper subscriptions, fraudulent schemes, etc. 

The FTC had already implemented a rule pertaining to this issue in 1995 called Telemarketing Sales Rule. In 2003, the FTC enacted a new amended rule pertaining to consumer protection and privacy, the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act. This rule protects consumers from unwanted phone calls from telemarketers, with one free phone call to the FTC. It authorizes the agency to establish fees to implement and enforce provisions, promulgated under the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.

Furthermore, in 2003 the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), signed by President George W. Bush, focused on the protection of identity theft. The FACTA created standards for the security and management of consumer information, enhancing privacy and accuracy. The act gives consumers the right to one free credit report a year from the credit reporting agencies. This enables financial institutions to become more dedicated in their investigations on consumer privacy and the prevention of identity theft. 

The most significant change in federal consumer protection came following the 2008 worldwide financial crisis. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, enacted by President Obama in 2010, targets the areas of the financial system that were believed to have caused the financial crisis such as: banks offering loans, credit card agencies, etc. This law, now part of the Division of Financial Practices, regulates the financial markets and safeguards consumers.  

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