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Restore FTC’s Consumer Refund Power, Cantwell to Urge in Bill

May 2, 2022, 9:25 PM

Sen. Maria Cantwell plans to introduce legislation this week to restore the Federal Trade Commission’s ability to seek monetary awards for consumers in court, the lawmaker’s office told Bloomberg Law.

The bill would bring back an authority that the U.S. Supreme Court curtailed last year that lets the FTC return money to consumers who were subject to scams, fraud, or other forms of deception.

The agency’s commissioners called on lawmakers for a legislative fix at their latest meeting.

“If the FTC remains disarmed of this critical authority, millions of consumers and small businesses who’ve been scammed, swindled, or locked out of competitive marketplaces will never be made whole,” Cantwell (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, also released a report that she said shows “what’s at stake for consumers.” The FTC has used this consumer protection authority to collect billions of dollars in recent years.

The report gives examples of FTC cases that invoked this refund power against businesses such as Amazon.com Inc., Uber Technologies Inc., and AT&T Inc., as well as companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

In a case concerning payday loans, the Supreme Court ruled in April 2021 that the commission can’t seek consumer redress using a provision that lets it go to federal court to try to stop an alleged fraud.

Cantwell’s bill would authorize monetary remedies for those who were harmed by consumer protection violations. The legislation also would create a 10-year statute of limitations for FTC suits, according to her office.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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