|Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Mr. Chairman, I would like to amplify on some earlier comments and emphasize an aspect of our work that is sometimes overlooked. The Federal Trade Commission does have important law enforcement responsibilities, but it also is supposed to investigate and to educate.
People will be surprised if they study the legislative history of this agency. When the Commission was created in 1914, President Wilson and Congress recognized that the commercial world was becoming increasingly complex and that people needed some guidance on what practices were reasonable or unreasonable, fair or unfair. At the same time, we know that the Commission members who provide that guidance cannot just rely on their own preferences; they need to be educated, too, because no single person can be "expert" on the myriad facets of a complex economy. So, the ideal educational process should be a two-way communication between the agency and informed people in the business, academic and consumer communities.
For a variety of reasons, that historic mission of the FTC has sometimes been neglected. However, it was revived in 1995 when Bob Pitofsky, our former Chairman, scheduled extensive hearings on Global and Innovation Based Competition. Since that time, these "hearings" or "workshops" have continued at an accelerated pace. You have heard about some of them today; let me mention some more. We have, for example, had hearings on so-called slotting allowances and on issues in the B2B marketplace. We had public conferences on the factors affecting gasoline prices.
Most recently, we have had a series of hearings on the interface between competition law and intellectual property law. Both legal regimes have a common objective - - to promote innovation and consumer welfare - - but they approach the objective from opposite directions, and this can create tensions in particular cases. These issues are complex, opinions differ, and some court decisions are hard to reconcile.
Commission hearings on this subject and others can be helpful in a variety of ways. They provide a reality check on our own enforcement agenda. They help to inform statements we might make to legislative or administrative bodies - - at the federal or state level. They inform lawyers in the private sector, who advise clients day-to-day on compliance issues. They also help to build some policy agreement among the diverse interests that participate. We don't resolve all differences by talking, of course, but it is encouraging to see how the debate becomes narrowed and focused when people sit down together to address these difficult issues in a forum that we provide.
Finally, you should be aware of the Commission's massive educational efforts aimed at consumers as a whole. We actively monitor the marketplace - - particularly the internet - - in search of consumer frauds, and we prosecute these frauds whenever we find them. An equally important weapon in the battle against fraud, however, is consumer education. Consumers who are better informed about the most common scams are less likely to be victims. We have provided you today with a representative package of these educational materials, and you can see that they are prepared in consumer-friendly formats. Last year, the FTC distributed over 5 million print publications and there were over 10 million hits on our website.
This is a very important part of what we do.