The Federal Trade Commission
Later chapters discuss federal and state laws that allow competitors and consumers to initiate lawsuits against commercial speakers when their speech is alleged to be false, deceptive, or harmful. However, these laws are only some of the weapons available to those who wish to police commercial speech. Congress and state legislatures also have created numerous governmental regulatory agencies that have the power to make and enforce rules governing commercial enterprises and their business practices. Although a veritable alphabet soup of such federal and state agencies has been given jurisdiction over specific categories of commercial speech, the agency perhaps most involved on a comprehensive, day-to-day basis is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This agency, established at the beginning of the century, was originally given power to regulate unfair trade practices. Eventually, Congress expanded its role to investigate and remedy a variety of abuses, including false or deceptive commercial speech.
The origins of the FTC have their roots in the growth of monopolistic practices in industries like petroleum production, meat packing, and cigarette and steel manufacturing, beginning in the early 1880s. Even in this, the heyday of laissez-faire, free-market economic policy, cries soon were heard urging the federal government to combat these practices, which, it was feared, could result in a few powerful interests gaining control over the free marketplace of goods and services by artificially setting prices and using great concentrations of wealth to stifle competition.