Chairman Quigley Statement at Hearing on Federal Trade Commission: Protecting Consumers and Fostering Competition in the 21st Century

2019-09-25 10:04

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL), Chair of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing "Federal Trade Commission: Protecting Consumers and Fostering Competition in the 21st Century":

Good morning. Thank you for joining us today.

I’m pleased to welcome Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons and Commissioner Rohit Chopra.

It’s been more than seven years since we have had the FTC before this subcommittee. That’s long overdue.

The FTC is one of the most important agencies that this subcommittee funds. And it’s only gotten more important over the past few years.

The FTC has an enormous jurisdiction, policing most sectors of our economy for bad behavior.

They crack down on abusive robocallers. They investigate data breaches that expose sensitive personal information.

And they analyze consolidation in the health care market, helping to limit abusive pricing for essential drugs and health services.

But perhaps at the front of mind, they are the top cop on the beat for consumer privacy violations and other issues in the technology sector.

This is something everyone worries about a lot these days – Republican and Democrat.

Whether tech companies are respecting the privacy choices of their customers. Whether they are choking off competition by favoring their own products or buying up competing products.

We’ve seen some promising actions recently. The FTC certainly did not take a summer break. In the past few months, they finalized high-profile settlements with Facebook, YouTube, and Equifax. They launched an antitrust investigation of Facebook and possibly other companies.

We recognize the challenges the FTC faces in policing such a large swathe of our economy.

That’s why this year’s House appropriations bill proposed a $40 million increase in FTC funding. That’s a bump of more than 10%.

Part of the reason we’re here is to understand how the FTC can invest those resources wisely - how they can get the best bang for the buck for consumers.

But it is also our duty as Appropriators to determine if the FTC is using its existing resources as efficiently as possible.

Consider this summer’s Facebook settlement. Yes, $5 billion is by far the largest privacy settlement. But it doesn’t seem to match the magnitude of Facebook’s privacy violations.

That fine does not represent even a full month of revenue for the company. And it’s not clear that the corporate changes the FTC secured will head off future privacy violations.

We could raise similar points about YouTube. Or question why the Equifax settlement – over one of the largest data breaches in history – included only $31 million for alternative compensation.

The economy has transformed dramatically in the past decade. The companies we worry about today are structured much differently than companies of concern in the past.

What we want to know is this: Can the FTC do better?

Can it win bigger monetary settlements to provide greater redress to consumers?

Or send clearer signals to the market that the U.S. will not tolerate anticompetitive or deceptive behavior, and that there will be severe consequences if that does happen?

We look forward to hearing from the Chairman and Commissioner.

Before I turn to the witnesses, I would like to recognize Mr. Graves for his opening remarks. 

116th Congress