Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
independent agency charged with preventing unfair or deceptive trade practices. Although the FTC has no authority to punish violators, it may monitor compliance with trade laws, conduct legal investigations, issue cease-and-desist orders, convene public hearings presided over by an administrative law judge, request formal injunctions from or file civil suits in U.S. district courts, and ensure that court orders are followed. The FTC seeks to protect consumers by regulating advertising, marketing, and consumer credit practices; and works to protect businesses by preventing antitrust agreements and other unfair practices. In addition to performing those quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative functions, the FTC promotes voluntary compliance through a variety of cooperative procedures, such as issuing industry guides and writing advisory opinions, and advocates in the courts and among legislatures and government agencies for the support of free and fair trade.