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When the Federal Trade Commission was created in 1914, its purpose was to prevent unfair methods of competition in commerce, particularly those practiced by the trusts. Since then, Congress has passed additional laws giving the agency greater authority to police anti-competitive practices. In 1938, Congress passed a broad prohibition against "unfair and deceptive acts or practices." Since that time, the Commission also has been authorized to administer a wide range of other consumer protection laws, including the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Pay-Per-Call Rule as well as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. In 1975, Congress gave the FTC authority to adopt industry-wide trade regulation rules.

The passage of the Federal Trade Commission Act was one of the major pieces of progressive legislation during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, although it should be noted that a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, Dick Thompson, made the first speech in favor of a Federal Trade Commission and the 1912 Republican National platform also supported it.

The FTC was authorized to enforce the provisions of the Clayton Antitrust Act as well as those of the FTC Act itself.

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