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The Federal Trade Commission enforces a variety of federal antitrust and consumer protection laws. The Commission seeks to ensure that the nation’s markets function competitively, and are vigorous, efficient, and free of undue restrictions. The Commission also works to enhance the smooth operation of the marketplace by attempting to eliminate acts or practices that are unfair or deceptive. In general, the Commission’s efforts are directed toward stopping actions that threaten consumers’ opportunities to exercise informed choice. Finally, the Commission also undertakes economic analysis to support its law enforcement efforts and to contribute to the policy deliberations of the Congress, the executive branch, other independent agencies, and state and local governments when requested.

The FTC’s antitrust arm, the Bureau of Competition, seeks to prevent business practices that restrain competition. The Bureau carries out this mission by investigating alleged law violations and, when appropriate, recommending that the Commission take formal enforcement action. If the Commission does decide to take action, the Bureau helps to implement that decision through litigation in federal court or before administrative law judges. The Bureau also serves as a research and policy resource on competition issues. It prepares reports and testimony for Congress, and may present comments on specific competition issues pending before other agencies.

The antitrust laws are enforced by both the FTC’s Bureau of Competition and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. In order to prevent duplication of effort, the two agencies consult before opening any case. The Commission’s antitrust authority comes primarily from the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act both passed by Congress in 1914.