FTC Public Hearings Begin This Week

On September 13, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission commenced a series of highly anticipated public hearings examining the need for policy changes to competition and consumer protection law.

The hearings invite input from interested parties regarding the Commissions policy agenda and are expected to identify areas for improvement. Specifically, whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection enforcement priorities.

A distinguished set of panelists are expected to discuss the following topics:

  • the current landscape of competition and consumer protection law and policy;
  • whether the U.S. economy has become more concentrated and less competitive;
  • the regulation of consumer data;
  • antitrust law and the consumer welfare standard; and
  • the analysis of vertical mergers.

Additional sessions of the FTC Hearings Initiative will be held throughout the fall and early winter.

The FTC’s is keenly interested in competition on privacy and data security attributes, and the importance of this competition to consumers and users. It is also likely to explore whether consumers prefer free/ad-supported products to products offering similar services or capabilities but that are neither free nor ad-supported.
Social media platforms’ use of algorithmic decisions tools will also likely be explored.

FTC compliance lawyer Richard B. Newman believes that the hearing signal an inflection point. Privacy and data use are at the forefront of the regulatory agenda, and the FTC has publicly stated that it wants more resources to accomplish its mission.

The FTC is also particularly interested in the welfare effects and privacy implications associated with the application of various technologies to consumer advertising and marketing campaigns; the welfare implications associated with use of these technologies in the determination of pricing and output decisions; and whether restrictions on the use of computer and machine learning and data analytics affect innovation or consumer rights and opportunities in existing or future markets, or in the development of new business models.

The hearings will be similar in form and structure to the Global Competition and Innovation Hearings undertaken in 1995. The foregoing hearings were the first major step in establishing the FTC as a key modern center for competition policy research and development and sought to articulate recommendations that would effectively ensure the competitiveness of U.S. markets without imposing unnecessary costs on private parties or governmental processes. The also re-energized one of the FTC’s most valuable functions – to gather leaders in business, economics, law, and related disciplines to discuss tough, emerging problems and prepare public reports on the facts, issues, governing law, and the need, as appropriate, for change.

Richard B. Newman is an FTC defense lawyer compliance and defense attorney at Hinch Newman LLP.

Informational purposes only. Not legal advice. Always seek the advice of an attorney. Previous case results do not guarantee similar future result. Hinch Newman LLP | 40 Wall St., 35th Floor, New York, NY 10005 | (212) 756-8777

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