283 U.S. 643 (1931), 484, Federal Trade Commission v. Raladam Co.

Docket Nº:No. 484
Citation:283 U.S. 643, 51 S.Ct. 587, 75 L.Ed. 1324
Party Name:Federal Trade Commission v. Raladam Co.
Case Date:May 25, 1931
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 643

283 U.S. 643 (1931)

51 S.Ct. 587, 75 L.Ed. 1324

Federal Trade Commission


Raladam Co.

No. 484

United States Supreme Court

May 25, 1931

Argued April 24, 1931




1. The Federal Trade Commission ordered the respondent to cease from representing his "obesity cure" as a scientific method of treating obesity, or as being the result of scientific research, or the formula as a scientific one, and from representing the preparation as a remedy for obesity, unless accompanied by the statement that it could not be taken safely except under medical direction. There were findings, supported by evidence, warranting the conclusion that the preparation could not be used generally without danger to health, except under medical advice. Held beyond the jurisdiction of the Commission. P. 646.

2. A method, to come within the jurisdiction of the Commission, must not only be unfair and such that a proceeding for its prevention appears to be in the public interest, but it must also be a method of competition in commerce. The Commission has no jurisdiction where no substantial competition, present or potential, is shown by proof or appears by necessary inference to have been injured or to be clearly threatened with injury to a substantial extent by the use of the unfair methods complained of. Pp. 646, 648.

3. While it is at least generally true that statements made by members of Congress in debate cannot be used as aids to the construction of a statute, yet the fact that, throughout the consideration of legislation, there was common agreement in the debate as to its purpose may properly be taken into consideration in determining what that purpose was and what were the evils sought to be remedied. P. 650.

4. If as a result of an inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission, it turns out that the preliminary assumption of competition upon which the order was based was without foundation, jurisdiction to make a desist order fails, and the proceeding must be dismissed by the Commission. P. 654.

42 F.2d 430 affirmed.

Certiorari, 282 U.S. 829, to review a decree reversing an order of the Federal Trade Commission.

Page 644

SUTHERLAND, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, c. 311, 38 Stat. 717, 719 (U.S.C. Title 15, § 45), the relevant parts of which are copied in the margin, * the Commission issued its complaint charging the [51 S.Ct. 589] respondent with using unfair methods of competition in interstate commerce.

Respondent manufactures a preparation for internal use, denominated an "obesity cure." The complaint charges that this preparation is sold by respondent in and throughout the several states, generally to wholesalers who resell to retail dealers, and these, in turn, to consumers; that it is offered for sale and sold in competition with other persons who are engaged

in offering for sale,

Page 645

and selling, printed professional advice, books of information and instruction, and other methods and means and certain remedies and appliances for dissolving or otherwise removing excess flesh of the human body;

that respondent advertises in newspapers, etc., circulated generally in the United States, and in printed labels, etc., that the preparation is the result of scientific research, knowledge, and accuracy, that it is safe and effective and may be used without discomfort, inconvenience, or danger of harmful results to health. Among the ingredients is "desiccated thyroid," which, it is alleged, cannot be prescribed to act with reasonable uniformity on the bodies of all users, or without impairing the health of a substantial portion of them, etc., or with safety, without previous consultation with, and continuing observation and advice of, a competent medical adviser. The complaint further avers that many persons are seeking obesity remedies, and respondent's advertisements are calculated to mislead and deceive the purchasing public into the belief that the preparation is safe, effective, dependable, and without danger of harmful results. By way of conclusion, it is said that

the acts and practices of the respondent are all to the prejudice of the public and of competitors of respondent, . . . and constitute unfair methods of competition.

Page 646

Respondent answered, and hearings were had before an examiner. The Commission found against respondent, and issued a cease and desist order. The findings in general follow the language of the complaint. There was no finding of prejudice or injury to any competitor, but the conclusion was drawn from the findings of fact that the practice of respondent was to the prejudice of the public and respondent's competitors, and constituted an unfair method of competition.

The court of appeals reviewed the action of the Commission upon respondent's petition, and reversed the order. 42 F.2d 430. We brought the case here by certiorari, limiting the briefs and argument to the question of the jurisdiction of the Commission. 282 U.S. 829.

In substance, the Commission ordered the respondent to cease and desist from representing that its preparation is a scientific method for treating obesity, is the result of scientific research, or that the formula is a scientific formula, and from representing its preparation as a remedy for obesity, unless accompanied by the statement that it cannot be taken safely except under medical advice and direction. Findings, supported by evidence, warrant the conclusion that the preparation is one which cannot be used generally with safety to physical health except under medical direction and advice. If the necessity of protecting the public against dangerously misleading advertisements of a remedy sold in interstate commerce were all that is necessary to give the Commission jurisdiction, the order could not successfully be assailed. But this is not all.

By the plain words of the act, the power of the Commission to take steps looking to the issue of an order to desist depends upon the existence of three distinct prerequisites: (1) that the methods complained of are unfair; (2) that they are methods of competition in commerce, and (3) that a proceeding by the Commission to

Page 647

prevent the use of the methods appears to be in the interest of the public. We assume the existence of the first and third of these requisites, and pass at once to the consideration of the second.

Section 5 of the Trade Commission Act is supplementary to the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Clayton Act. Federal Trade Comm'n v. Beech Nut Co., 257 U.S. 441, 453. The latter was discussed and passed at the same session of Congress. The Sherman Act deals with contracts, agreements, and combinations which tend to the prejudice of the public by the undue restriction of competition or the undue obstruction of the due course of trade, United States v. American Tobacco Co., 221 U.S. 106, 179, and which tend to "restrict the common liberty to engage therein," United States v. Patten, 226 U.S. 525, 541.

The Clayton Act, so far as it deals with the subject, was intended to reach in their incipiency agreements embraced within the sphere of the Sherman Act. Standard Co. v. Magrane-Houston Co., 258 U.S. 346, 355-357. The object of the Trade Commission Act was [51 S.Ct. 590] to stop in their incipiency those methods of competition which fall within the meaning of the word "unfair."

The great purpose of both statutes was to advance the public interest by securing fair opportunity for the play of the contending forces ordinarily engendered by an honest desire for gain.

Federal Trade Comm'n v. Sinclair Co., 261 U.S. 463, 476. All three statutes seek to protect the public from abuses arising in the course of competitive interstate and foreign trade. In a case arising under the Trade Commission Act, the fundamental questions are whether the methods complained of are "unfair," and whether, as in cases under the Sherman Act, they tend to the substantial injury of the public by restricting competition in interstate trade and "the common liberty to engage therein." The paramount aim of the act is the

Page 648

protection of the public from the evils likely to result from the...

To continue reading