(Washington, D.C.) — Iowa Third District Congresswoman Cindy Axne is among the Congressional members backing a measure that would allow the Federal Trade Commission to force scammers to pay restitution.
Every House Democrat and two Republicans voted in favor of the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act this week. The bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling in April that prevented the FTC from forcing scammers and companies that defrauded consumers to pay back restitution — a practice they had been doing for nearly 40 years. Axne says having tools to help victims of scams recover their money is critical.
"At a time right now when reports of frauds and scams are on the rise because of COVID-19, we've got to make sure that our watchdogs have the tools they need, so that these victims of fraud are made whole again," said Axne. "What happened, unfortunately, is that the Supreme Court has said that the FTC's authority to get restitution for these consumers who have been harmed by deceptive marketing or other things, that they no longer have to give that restitution. We need to make that happen."
House Republicans opposed the bill, saying on the floor this week that it was incomplete in its current form. In the first half of this year, the FTC says they have received more than 326,000 reports of fraud. More than $1.6 million is estimated to have been lost to frauds in Iowa this year alone.
"More than 65,000 Iowans have gotten money back from the FTC in just the last few years," said Axne. "If we don't do this, it means Iowans are going to lose out on hard-earned funds that they got scammed out of. We can't let that happen."
The FTC also reports an increase in COVID-19-related scams, including false medical cures or prescriptions. Axne, who is a member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, introduced a bill that was passed by the House in May that would create a working group between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to take aim at COVID-19 scammers. Axne says both bills aim to put money back in the pockets of American citizens.
"In the last three years, the FTC has recovered more than $11 billion," said Axne. "That's a lot of money. If you think about $11 billion, that means this is pretty excessive, the number of scams that are out there."
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has joined a group of 28 attorneys general around the country who supported the bill. Axne made her comments on KMA’s Morning Line program Thursday. You can hear the full interview below.