HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Senator Richard Blumenthal is in Washington Tuesday and he’s calling on Congress to increase powers of the “Federal Trade Commission” after the commission reported a steep increase in fraud cases during the pandemic.
Remember in the early months of the pandemic when price gouging was an issue and consumers were paying too much for things like hand sanitizer. Well, Senator Blumenthal says issues of fraud during the pandemic go beyond that and more needs to be done to protect consumers.
460,000 cases of consumer fraud during the pandemic. That’s according to the FTC. A 45 percent increase in numbers of reports during the pandemic.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal held a Congressional hearing Tuesday with FTC testimony. Blumenthal says online marketplaces were flooded with things like fake PPE and medical misinformation. Like people selling vitamin C, falsely claiming it would treat COVID-19.
Blumenthal says he wants the FTC to have more tools to protect consumers and return money to consumers. A change Blumenthal says Congress would have to make to reverse a Supreme Court decision.
An FTC official says that ruling put 24 active consumer protection cases at risk and left $2.4 billion dollars in consumer dollars on the table.
“The FTC must go to court against wrongdoing. It needs to create deterrence through hefty legal penalties and strict court orders, and it needs to refer from criminal action more often and more effectively,” said Blumenthal.
“Congress can fix the situation and at a minimum restore the FTC to the authority that it has used for almost four decades to protect American consumers,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC. “The longer it takes to implement the fix the longer the FTC will be greatly weakened in our ability to protect consumers.”
One way Blumenthal wants the FTC to protect consumers is to allow victims to go after social media platforms that allow people to promote misinformation.