September 19, 2006

Wyden Report Details FTC Failures to Fight High Gasoline Prices

Senator calls for protection for American consumers, families by "new, aggressive leadership" at the Federal Trade Commission

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today released a report detailing the Federal Trade Commission's role in allowing gasoline prices to reach historic highs across the United States. The report, entitled "Campaign of Inaction: The Federal Trade Commission's Refusal to Protect Consumers from Consolidation, Cutbacks and Manipulation in America's Oil and Gasoline Markets," draws on Wyden's years of investigating anti-consumer, anti-competitive oil industry practices in the Pacific Northwest and makes the case for new, aggressive leadership at the FTC. Wyden currently has a "hold" or procedural block on the nomination of Washington attorney Deborah Majoras to head the FTC; Majoras has been unwilling or unable to tell Wyden how she would lead the agency to aggressively fight high gasoline prices. In the report, Wyden maintains that with high gasoline prices threatening consumers and the nation's economic future, "the American people need their government to be fighting for their interests and for our country's economic future. Instead, the FTC continues to wage a "campaign of inaction" - that is, not just to fail to act on consumers' behalf, but to refuse to act - where oil and gasoline markets are concerned." Wyden's report outlines the FTC's inaction in three major areas that contribute to high gasoline prices for consumers: oil company mergers, oil refinery cutbacks, and anti-competitive practices in gasoline markets. In each case, the report documents instances in which the FTC could have taken action on behalf of American consumers, but failed to do so. It also offers specific recommendations for policy changes at the agency with regard to oil and gasoline markets. "The FTC must make a … strong commitment to finally stand up for the American consumers the agency was created to serve," the report says. Wyden released the report this morning at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, of which he is a member. At the hearing, convened to examine gasoline pricing issues, Wyden also sharply questioned the Administrator of the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration on the negative impacts of using taxpayer dollars to buy high-priced oil out of the private market to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and questioned the president of the American Petroleum Institute on price-gouging techniques used by oil companies to boost profits. The Wyden report follows this release, and may also be found at