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Nelson Speaks on FAA Reauthorization on the Senate Floor

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor on FAA reauthorization
April 6, 2016

Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, I think the Chairman, Senator Thune, has pointed out that what we have tried to exhibit, is the way the Senate is supposed to work in a bipartisan way to forge consensus in order to be able to govern. And the subject matter, the FAA aviation, is one that we shouldn't dillydally around. And indeed some of the very serious consequences that are facing the National Aviation System, we take them head-on.
 
And I want the chairman to know how much I appreciate the spirit with which we have worked not only on this issue, but the many issues in the Commerce Committee. And I think we're seeing the proof in the pudding, and I think we will see an amendatory process that runs fairly smooth as a result of the example and the spirit that we have tried to set with regard to this legislation.
 
It's a comprehensive bill. It's been months in the making, and in working together in the fashion that I indicated, the bill reflects the broad agreement on aviation. We at the same time have refrained from the controversial proposals, such as the plan in the House bill that's come out of the House committee has not gone to the floor, that being a plan to privatize air traffic control that has stopped the House FAA bill dead in its tracks.
 
We have a good bill in front of us here in the Senate, and in this robust process, we'll consider many amendments and improvements as we continue on down the legislative process. There is no basis, Mr. President, for the chatter coming from some in the House that hearts and minds down here are going to change on air traffic control privatization.
 
Air traffic control privatization is just not going to happen. I've made myself very, very clear: such a privatization scheme would seriously impact the overall success of our aviation system. It would dismantle the long-standing partnership between the FAA and the Department of Defense, and needlessly disrupt the progress FAA is making in its modernization efforts.
 
And let me underscore that. The Defense Department operates in about 20 percent of our airspace. They cannot afford to have a private company handling that airspace.
 
And of course this privatization could also lead to increased costs for the traveling public and users of the National Airspace System. The measured approach that we're taking in this bill, we think is the better path, and we are not alone in this view.
 
This bipartisan bill enjoys the support of a huge number of organizations. Now, nothing is perfect. And so it was my hope that we could find a way to help our busiest airports by increasing the resources they need to improve and maintain vital facilities. We couldn't reach that agreement. And that is one reason why the term of this bill is somewhat limited through fiscal year 2017, so that we have an additional opportunity to revisit this and other issues in the not-too-distant future.
 
But it is a consensus bill, and it contains, as the chairman has just mentioned, many new consumer protections for airline passengers, critical improvements in drone safety, and reforms to boost US aircraft manufacturing and exports. And it will do all of this without disrupting the safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world.
 
Let me highlight some of these consumer protections.
 
How irritating is it to passengers that they don't know about this and that fee, this and that charge; consumers who at the end of the day feel nickeled and dimed. They deserve to know, and they need some relief. Well, this bill makes progress on that.
 
Last summer, this senator released a report that found that airlines failed to adequately disclose the extra fees and the add-on costs charged to the flying public. In many cases, passengers didn't know that they could get a seat without having to request a special seat with a fee. In many cases, passengers didn't know about the fees that they had to pay for airline baggage. Well, that report had a number of comprehensive recommendations, and this legislation builds on that report to protect the flying public.
 
Many, many things in the bill. But for example, it requires fee refunds for lost or delayed baggage. It requires new standardized disclosure of fees for consumers. It requires increased protections for disabled passengers.
 
As the chairman mentioned, drone safety is a very important bill. Remember Captain Sully Sullenberger, who became a national hero when upon takeoff and ascending out of LaGuardia, encountered a flock of seagulls which were sucked into his jet engines?
 
Now, that's flesh and blood and feathers and webbed feet. You can imagine what would happen if a drone on assent or on descent of a passenger airliner sucks in the plastic and metal of a drone. There are lives at risk and there might not be a Hudson River that Captain Sullenberger could belly it in in the Hudson River and save all the lives of his passengers.

Last year alone, the FAA recorded over a thousand drone sightings near airports and aircraft. Well, that's unacceptable, and we must do everything that we can to protect the flying public from these dangers posed by drones.

And so this bill creates a pilot program to test various technologies to keep drones away from airports and it requires the FAA to work with NASA to test and develop a drone traffic management system.

We have seen the technology already available that can suddenly capture a drone as it goes into a prohibited area and land that drone or take over that drone and take it someplace else. The identification of drones that go in and out of prohibited areas is also important.

And we're going to have to face this because sooner or later it won't be what happened at the Miami international airport with a drone within hundreds of feet of an inbound American Airlines airliner into Miami International. So we want to avoid that catastrophic outcome.

This legislation also provides reforms in the FAA certification process that will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and most importantly create really good jobs for hardworking Americans.

Now, those are just some of the key features in the bill when it comes to reauthorizing the FAA and that's what brings here today with the bill on the floor.

We know that we're in a new context of world terrorism, having just been reminded in Brussels. The dual attacks on a Brussels metro station and the airport are a grim reminder of both aviation and surface transportation networks remain attractive targets for terrorists.

And it's now almost 15 years after September the 11th. The terrorists are still out there seeking these vulnerabilities.

In November of last year, we saw the ability to penetrate airport perimeter security in Egypt, caused an employee to get an explosive device on a Russian passenger jet, and that killed 224 civilians.

And so we have amendments to address these. We think these amendments are noncontroversial. We think they are bipartisan. And they certainly are timely.

And so as our debate unfolds over the next few days, aviation security will be an important factor in the discussion. The chairman and I have talked at length and we have some of the ideas that we are going to present for consideration on security.

One such proposal as the chairman has mentioned in his opening remarks. We already passed it in the Commerce Committee. It's right there. The Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act. And that legislation, bipartisan, sponsored by a number of us on the committee would improve background checks for airport workers and increased employee screenings, and obviously a reminder of the Russian jetliner this is important, a reminder of the gunrunning scheme in the Atlanta airport over 100 guns over a three-month period put on airliners transporting them from the Atlanta airport to New York.

So it's an area that requires attention, so I look forward to collaborating with our colleagues as we move these important issues.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and I yield it just in time before my voice gives out.

Transportation Security: Protecting Passengers and Freight

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Transportation Security: Protecting Passengers and Freight” on Wednesday, April 6, at 10:00 a.m.

While airport security is a major and highly visible function of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), by law the agency is designated as responsible for all transportation security matters including trains, subways, buses, and ports. Recent attacks by ISIS, including those in Belgium on March 22, have underscored that terrorists can inflict significant casualties at transportation targets without attempting to board airplanes or subjecting themselves to security screenings. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, who was in Brussels on March 22, will deliver testimony about TSA efforts to prevent attacks on passenger and freight targets that could lead to mass casualties.

Witness:

  • The Honorable Peter Neffenger, TSA Administrator and Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security

* Witness list subject to change


Hearing Details:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016
10:00 a.m.
 
Full Committee hearing
 
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

For reporters interested in reserving a seat, please contact the press gallery:

• Periodical Press Gallery – 202-224-0265

• Radio/Television Gallery – 202-224-6421

• Press Photographers Gallery – 202-224-6548

• Daily Press Gallery – 202-224-0241

Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

I want to thank Chairman Thune for calling this hearing.

The coordinated attacks on a Brussels metro station and airport two weeks ago are a grim reminder that both aviation and surface transportation networks remain attractive targets for terrorists.

The list of terrorist attacks on transportation networks globally is long and distressing.

In the 10 years after 9/11, more than 1,900 attacks were carried out against transit systems around the world, resulting in close to 4,000 deaths and 14,000 injuries.

In aviation, almost 15 years after 9/11, terrorists are still finding vulnerabilities to exploit.

For example, in November 2015, ISIS attacked a Russian passenger jet over Egypt, killing 224 civilians.  

And we should all remember that in 2014, an airline worker in Atlanta used his access credentials to smuggle firearms around the passenger checkpoint and hand them off to a passenger bound for New York.

In total, the employee was charged with smuggling 153 firearms on 17 flights in 2014.

So last December, this committee took an important step to improve aviation security by moving the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act of 2015. 

This bill takes common sense steps to prevent an insider threat to our aviation system by improving the background checks for aviation workers.

The bill also increases random physical screenings, and covert, red-team testing of airport worker security.

Additionally, the legislation creates a pilot program for airports to conduct 100 percent employee screening, as they have done for years in Miami and Orlando.

And while these steps are essential, I am concerned that our current strategy does not sufficiently address the vulnerabilities exposed in Brussels to surface transportation networks.

In 2016, less than 2 percent of the TSA’s total budget and full-time employees are dedicated to protecting surface transportation networks.  

And while we have yet to suffer a recent attack on a mass transit system in the U.S. on the same scale as the Brussels attack, we cannot wait for one to occur before we act.

TSA can take immediate action by completing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which were enacted into law in 2007.

Additionally, we have an opportunity to improve our transportation security through the FAA bill.

So it’s time to reexamine our transportation security strategy and refocus our efforts.  I want to thank Administrator Neffenger for coming today.

I look forward to hearing from you on these issues to ensure TSA has the resources and strategy it needs to address transportation security risks. 

<p>"On March 22nd, terrorists

"On March 22nd, terrorists associated with ISIS detonated three bombs in Brussels, two at an airport, and one in a busy metro car. Thirty-five people, including four Americans, were killed in this cowardly attack.  

"The victims of these attacks remain in our thoughts and prayers.  

"The threat from ISIS, al-Qaeda and their sympathizers is real, and we must ensure sound policies are in place to enhance security and prevent these deadly attacks.

"This hearing will focus on the efforts of the Transportation Security Administration to secure surface transportation modes.  In light of the attacks in Brussels, however, we will also address the related challenge of safeguarding the areas of airports outside passenger screening checkpoints.  

"Administrator Neffenger, I understand that you were, by chance, in the Brussels airport at the time of the attacks.  

"I hope you will share your thoughts on the horrific events there, and how we can prevent and prepare for similar threats.  I understand your written testimony focuses on rail, transit, and pipeline security, but I hope you will also share with us additional information on how we can improve airport security.   

"The TSA must learn from past attacks and also look forward to new and emerging threats.  Sadly, it is clear that terrorists associated with al-Qaeda and ISIS have identified passenger rail and transit systems as soft targets. 

"It is critical that we not neglect these vital parts of our transportation system as we look for ways to improve security.  

"Understandably, these open systems cannot be secured in the same way as our aviation network.  Nevertheless, some of the techniques we utilize in the aviation network apply to surface assets, as well areas of the airport on the street side of the checkpoint.   

"While our best tool in combating terrorist attacks continues to be good intelligence, TSA has adopted a multi-layer process to identify threats and mitigate security concerns.   

"Former Administrator John Pistole strongly promoted the risk-based allocation of TSA’s resources.  I look forward to hearing from the Administrator today about his views on the risk-based analysis of threats.  TSA cannot and should not be at every bus stop, or every train station. 

"The agency must leverage its relationships with state and local officials and address the most significant threats with its limited resources.  

"Visible security efforts can also make a difference.  Explosives Detection Canines and police presence can deter both terrorist threats and criminal activity.  TSA’s support of these programs is invaluable.  I’d like to hear more about how these teams are allocated among airports and other transportation systems.

"TSA is also charged with protecting freight transportation networks including ports, freight railroads, and pipeline infrastructure.  These critical infrastructure networks are crucial components of our nation’s economy.   

"TSA receives high marks from railroad and pipeline operators who work with the agency to identify and mitigate threats.  Public-private security partnerships between the agency and operators have been valuable in hardening these networks.

"On the aviation front, Ranking Member Nelson and I have been leading oversight at the Commerce Committee of problems some airports have had in successfully managing security credentials.  

"This oversight led the Committee to approve bipartisan legislation, S. 2361, the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act, to tighten vetting of airport workers, so that those with ties to terrorists and histories of serious criminal behavior do not access sensitive airport areas.

"Unfortunately, in the current system, such individuals are not always captured.  

"Some of the perpetrators in the deadly attacks in Brussels were previously known to authorities as criminals, and U.S. terrorism experts believe that ISIS is recruiting criminals to join its ranks in Europe. 

"As we work to address the threat of an aviation insider helping terrorists, criminals who break laws for financial gain and those with histories of violence are a good place to start.  

"Ensuring that airport workers with security credentials are trustworthy is especially important considering that an ISIS affiliate is believed to have killed 224 people on a Russian passenger plane leaving Egypt with, experts suspect, the help of an airport employee.  

"The Committee has also approved legislation, H.R. 2843, the TSA PreCheck Expansion Act, which would help expand participation in the TSA PreCheck application program by developing private-sector partnerships and capabilities to vet and enroll more individuals. 

"As a result, more vetted passengers would receive expedited airport screening, which would get passengers through security checkpoints more quickly and ensure that they do not pose the kind of easy target that ISIS suicide bombers exploited at the Brussels airport.  

"I believe both of these important measures can and should advance in the full Senate this week.  

"Administrator Neffenger, thank you for being here today.  We need strong leadership and decisive action to address this terrorist threat.  You are faced with a great challenge of getting it right every time, when a terrorist just needs one opportunity.  I look forward to hearing from you about how TSA is working to meet that challenge.  

"I’d like to recognize Ranking Member Nelson for his opening statement."

Field Hearing Challenges for Small Defense Contractors

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 2:00pm
Chairman Richard Hanna has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce titled, “Challenges for Small Defense Contractors.”  The hearing will be held at 2:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at the Palmdale City Hall Chamber Room, 38300 Sierra Highway, Palmdale, CA 93550.

Hearing Materials
1. Hearing Notice

Thune on Recent Terror Attacks, Transportation Security, and TSA Hearing Tomorrow

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the Senate floor on the recent terror attacks in Brussels and Istanbul by ISIS and the committee's hearing on transportation security in light of the attacks. The Transportation Security Administration Administrator Peter Neffenger will testify at the hearing.

Networking Event by WCOE CA Chapter and Balfour Beatty

WCOE News - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 12:49pm

WCOE CA Chapter and Balfour Beatty will host a networking event on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Culver City Courtyard Marriott, 6333 Bristol Parkway, Culver City, CA. Speaker for the event will be Lee Cunningham, CEO of BT Metals and WCOE Board Member, She will talk about "How to Work a Room." Registration will begin at 3:30 p.m. on the day of the event.

Categories: Latest News

Field Hearing: Bridging the Gap—Increasing Access to Venture Capital for Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 10:00am
Chairman Steve Chabot has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access titled, “Bridging the Gap—Increasing Access to Venture Capital for Small Businesses.” The hearing will be held at 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at Pasadena City Hall, 100 Garfield Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.  

Hearing Materials

1Hearing Notice

Small Business Committee Leaders Urge Contracting Changes at Federal Agency

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 12:00am

WASHINGTONThe Democratic and Republican leadership of the House Small Business Committee today wrote to the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), criticizing how the agency’s procurement procedures impact small businesses.  In their letter, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat on the Committee and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), the Chairman of the Committee, said a number of recent changes at GSA have made it more difficult for small firms to join the federal marketplace and win contracts from the federal government.

“When small businesses win federal work, they often bring on new employees to meet the additional demand for their goods and services, creating badly needed jobs,” Ranking Member Velázquez said. “Unfortunately, we see a pattern of decisions being made at GSA that are restricting entrepreneurs’ ability to win these contracts. We need this agency to be more proactive in working to include small businesses in the contracting process.”

“For too long, the GSA has been stacking the deck against America’s small businesses by preventing full and fair competition for federal contracts,” said House Small Business Committee Steve Chabot (R-OH). “Our Committee will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure that the GSA treats small businesses fairly by giving them every opportunity to provide quality products and services for the taxpayer at competitive prices.”

The full text of the letter is below.

April 5, 2016

Administrator Denise Turner Roth

U.S. General Services Administration

1800 F Street NW

Washington, DC 20405

RE: Small Business Opportunities at the U.S. General Services Administration

Dear Administrator Roth:

We are writing this letter in our capacity as Ranking Member and Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, which has jurisdiction over federal procurement matters that impact small companies.  Recently, there have been a number of decisions made at the U.S. General Services Administration which have negatively impacted the ability of small firms to continue doing business with your agency and many others.  GSA, once the entry point for numerous small businesses into the federal marketplace, has now made it difficult to get a start in contracting. These actions not only impact small business but also the ability of agencies to get quality products and services at competitive prices.

The Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) previously provided a low-entry point that allowed small businesses to get their foot in the door for federal contracting.  Through the orders placed by multiple agencies, these firms could build their capacity and capabilities while at the same time building a past performance record.  Agencies benefited from this arrangement as it allowed them to compare prices from hundreds of vendors and get exactly what they needed.  However, GSA has continued to turn its back on the value that MAS contracts can bring to the government in favor of the new Category Management approach.

While Category Management has been billed as the strategy that can get agencies the lowest price, all evidence the committee has seen points to the contrary.  In fact, in many cases the MAS contract holders continue to provide lower prices versus those offered by Category Management contract holders.  However, agencies cannot often buy at the lower price as these other contracts have been made mandatory vehicles by their agency.  Ultimately, this means agencies pay more than necessary for goods and services. 

Additionally, decisions by GSA have reduced the overall number of businesses that have been able to compete for contracting opportunities.  Many of the new contracting vehicles coming out of GSA have bundled so many goods together in one contract that a lot of small businesses do not have the capabilities to bid for it, despite having previously provided some of the goods or services under the MAS contracts. As a result the number of small firms serving as suppliers to the government in certain areas has gone from the hundreds to just a few handfuls. 

This is worrisome for a number of reasons. First, it reduces competition between firms, providing relatively little incentive to lower prices. Additionally, it reduces the industrial base as it is unclear whether firms not awarded a contract under these mandatory Category Management vehicles will be able to keep their doors open if they do not receive orders from their MAS contract. 

GSA has even recently targeted contracts outside of the Category Management initiative with burdensome requirements that would make it difficult to continue doing business with the agency. Many small firms informed the committee that the proposed Transactional Data Rule issued last year would require massive costs and paperwork burdens as many of them stated they do not have systems to collect all of the data GSA is seeking.  In addition to changes to their existing system and increased reporting, small businesses have expressed doubt as to whether the new requirements will be successful in lowering pricing.  Based on the data we have seen coming out of Category Management vehicles that have similar reporting requirements, we are concerned as to whether these measures will allow agencies to receive the best prices available for goods and services.

Lastly, we are deeply troubled by the level of small business participation at your agency.  While each year GSA has high levels of dollars awarded to small firms, these numbers continue to be inflated as a result of exclusions to the agency’s base.  In the last fiscal year, GSA excluded approximately 60 percent of the total dollars spent by the agency when it calculated the eligible small business dollars.  Based on this data, GSA awarded only 18 percent of its dollars to small businesses rather than the 44 percent published in the Small Business Goaling Report.

Therefore, we are writing to request information in terms of the steps being taken to remove barriers for small firms wishing to do business with GSA as well as to strongly encourage you to increase participation of small businesses that contract with your agency.  It is our hope that we can work collaboratively to ensure all businesses have access to contracting opportunities at the U.S. General Services Administration.

Sincerely,


Nydia M. Velázquez                                      

Ranking Member                                           

Steve Chabot

Chairman

cc:  Jerome Fletcher, Associate Administrator for the Office of Small Business Utilization, GSA

Learn More: The Senate's Plan to Reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration

The bill supports U.S. jobs, improves safety, advances beneficial drone technology, and helps passengers. A consumer columnist for the Washington Post called the bill, "one of the most passenger-friendly Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bills in a generation."

Information About the Senate FAA Reauthorization

The bill supports U.S. jobs, improves safety, advances beneficial drone technology, and helps passengers. A consumer columnist for the Washington Post called the bill, "one of the most passenger-friendly Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bills in a generation." For more information visit: www.commerce.senate.gov/faa

GSA Administrator Speaks at Women Build America Conference around the Opportunities to Partner with the Federal Government

GSA news releases - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:00am
GSA Administrator Speaks at Women Build America Conference around the Opportunities to Partner with the Federal Government

U.S. General Services Administration Retires Legacy Billing System

GSA news releases - Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:00am
U.S. General Services Administration Retires Legacy Billing System

GSA Administrator & Rep. Meeks Highlight Investment for New York in President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget

GSA news releases - Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:00am
GSA Administrator & Rep. Meeks Highlight Investment for New York in President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget

Kline Statement on March Jobs Report

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after the Department of Labor released unemployment data for March 2016:
 

It’s encouraging that hiring is improving and more Americans are back to work, but we still have a long way to go. Millions of workers are still looking for full-time jobs, and millions more are so discouraged by meager job prospects that they’ve given up on their search for work entirely. Too many working families are being left behind in this anemic economy. Instead of changing course, we are being bombarded with new regulatory schemes that will make it harder for small businesses to thrive and for families to achieve the economic security they deserve. For those individuals and their families, we have to do better. That’s why we will continue to fight against failed policies that are holding our workforce back, and instead, pursue a pro-growth agenda that will lead to the success and opportunity Americans need.
 

# # #

New Hampshire Court Deals Setback to Contingency-Fee “Parens Patriae” Suits

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 03/31/2016 - 3:00pm
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics, state attorneys-general and their trial bar friends have been able to avoid federal court altogether by simply bringing their class and mass actions through the AG’s office as a parens patriae suit. Not only does this clever maneuver treat courtrooms as cash registers and […]
Categories: Latest News

Following ISIS Attacks, TSA Administrator to Testify April 6

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, who was in Brussels on March 22, will deliver testimony about TSA efforts to prevent attacks on passenger and freight targets that could lead to mass casualties.

Sen. Nelson Reaction to FTC Move to Seek Compensation for Volkswagen Owners

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, issued the following statement in response to the FTC’s move to seek compensation for consumers who purchased or leased  “Clean Diesel” Volkswagens.   Nelson asked the Federal Trade Commission in September to investigate Volkswagen marketing.  

“This was one of the most egregious examples of a company deceiving the public,” said Nelson.  “Hopefully, the court will provide adequate redress to consumers and send a strong message that this type of corporate behavior won’t be tolerated. ”  

Below is the FTC’s release and Nelson’s September letter to the agency requesting an investigation.   ____________________________________________

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION RELEASE

March 29, 2016  

FTC Charges Volkswagen Deceived Consumers with its “Clean Diesel” Campaign  

Seeks Compensation for Those Who Bought or Leased Affected VW and Audi Vehicles over Seven-Year Period

The Federal Trade Commission has charged that Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. deceived consumers with the advertising campaign it used to promote its supposedly “clean diesel” VWs and Audis, which Volkswagen fitted with illegal emission defeat devices designed to mask high emissions during government tests.

The FTC is seeking a court order requiring Volkswagen to compensate American consumers who bought or leased an affected vehicle between late 2008 and late 2015, as well as an injunction to prevent Volkswagen from engaging in this type of conduct again.   In a complaint filed in federal court, the FTC alleges that during this seven-year period Volkswagen deceived consumers by selling or leasing more than 550,000 diesel cars based on false claims that the cars were low-emission, environmentally friendly, met emissions standards and would maintain a high resale value. The cars sold for an average price of approximately $28,000.  

“For years Volkswagen’s ads touted the company’s ‘Clean Diesel’ cars even though it now appears Volkswagen rigged the cars with devices designed to defeat emissions tests,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Our lawsuit seeks compensation for the consumers who bought affected cars based on Volkswagen’s deceptive and unfair practices.”  

According to the FTC’s complaint, Volkswagen promoted its supposedly “clean” cars through a high-profile marketing campaign that included Super Bowl ads, online social media campaigns, and print advertising, often targeting “environmentally-conscious” consumers.  

For example, Volkswagen promotional materials repeatedly claimed that its “Clean Diesel” vehicles have low emissions, including that they reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 90 percent and have fewer such emissions than gasoline cars. In fact, the FTC’s complaint states that they emit up to 4,000 percent more than the legal limit of NOx — a dangerous pollutant that contributes to environmental harms and respiratory ailments.  

The complaint alleges that Volkswagen also claimed that “Clean Diesel” vehicles met “stringent emission requirements,” were “50-state compliant,” and would maintain a high resale value. Yet, according to the FTC’s complaint, these claims were also false because without the illegally installed software, the “Clean Diesel” vehicles would not have passed federal emissions standards and the hidden defeat devices will significantly reduce the vehicles’ resale value.  

The FTC also charged that Volkswagen provided the means and instrumentalities for others to deceive consumers, and that installing the emissions defeat devices was an unfair practice.  

The affected vehicles include 2009 through 2015 Volkswagen TDI diesel models of Jettas, Passats, and Touareg SUVs, as well as TDI Audi models. The suggested sale prices for the affected vehicles ranged from approximately $22,000 for the least-expensive Volkswagen model with a 2.0-liter engine to approximately $125,000 for the most-expensive Audi model with 3.0-liter engine.  

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.  

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court. The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).  

_____________________________________________

September 22, 2015 

The Honorable Edith Ramirez

Chairwoman, Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530  

Dear Chairwoman Ramirez:  

Like many Americans, I am disturbed by Volkswagen’s shocking admission that the company intentionally deceived consumers and the public about the emissions of some of its Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles, which it marketed as being environmentally friendly.  Specifically, Volkswagen admits that it deliberately installed software to control pollutants only during official emissions testing but not during normal vehicle operations on the road.  As a result, these vehicles illegally emitted hazardous pollutants in violation of the Clean Air Act.  Furthermore, Volkswagen’s claims about the environmental impact of its vehicles were false.  

Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are exploring civil and criminal actions, respectively, against Volkswagen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has an appropriate role in investigating the company’s actions. As the nation’s foremost consumer protection agency, the FTC has sole authority to enforce section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) and its broad prohibition against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”  As the attached marketing material clearly illustrates, Volkswagen advertised their diesel cars as “clean diesel” and as otherwise environmentally friendly.  Yet, contrary to these express claims, Volkswagen’s and Audi’s diesel vehicles, by design, were neither clean nor environmentally friendly, and they failed to comply with federal environmental laws.  

I am outraged that VW would cheat its customers by deceiving them into buying a car that wasn’t what was advertised. As such, I ask that the commission explore possible remedies under the FTC Act to remedy consumers who relied upon Volkswagen’s deceptive claims.  

While the FTC lacks civil penalty authority under section 5 and cannot wield the large stick of criminal prosecution, the commission is uniquely positioned to specifically represent the interest of consumers.  The commission can seek consumer redress for Volkswagen’s deception, and it can also seek a full panoply of equitable remedies that would force Volkswagen to take actions to specifically address consumer harm.  For instance, the commission could force Volkswagen to launch a comprehensive corrective marketing campaign that would cure the deception and inform consumers about their remedial options.  The commission has entered into such consent agreements in the past.  

This situation shows the importance of having multiple “cops on the beat” when it comes to consumer protection.  The EPA and the DOJ have very important law enforcement and remedial roles to play when faced with the kinds of behavior at issue here.  In establishing the FTC Act, however, Congress did not contemplate a bystander role for agency in the face of galling and unmitigated consumer deception.  As an independent agency of Congress, the FTC has a key role to play – in cooperation with EPA and DOJ – as one of the cops on the beat to make sure consumers are protected.  I urge the commission to exercise all of its authority on behalf of the American public.  

Thank you for your attention to this matter.    

                                                                                                                                            

Sincerely,  

Senator Bill Nelson

Ranking Member

GSA PBS Commissioner Officially Announces Disposal of a Centrally Located Property in the District of Columbia

GSA news releases - Tue, 03/29/2016 - 12:00am
GSA PBS Commissioner Officially Announces Disposal of a Centrally Located Property in the District of Columbia

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