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FTC, FCC Sign Partnership To Collaborate on Online Consumer Protection

The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission have sorted out who will investigate and enforce what after the FCC moves forward with repealing net neutrality rules later this week.

The two agencies released a Memorandum of Understanding that details the ways that each agency will protect consumers from unscrupulous internet service providers. From a press release announcing the partnership:

  • The FCC will review informal complaints concerning the compliance of Internet service providers (ISPs) with the disclosure obligations set forth in the new transparency rule. Those obligations include publicly providing information concerning an ISP’s practices with respect to blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and congestion management. Should an ISP fail to make the required disclosures—either in whole or in part—the FCC will take enforcement action.
  • The FTC will investigate and take enforcement action as appropriate against ISPs concerning the accuracy of those disclosures, as well as other deceptive or unfair acts or practices involving their broadband services.
  • The FCC and the FTC will broadly share legal and technical expertise, including the secure sharing of informal complaints regarding the subject matter of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The two agencies also will collaborate on consumer and industry outreach and education.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on repealing the rules governing net neutrality on Thursday. Under the current rules, ISPs are required to treat all data and content the same, regardless of platform, website, or user. Critics of the proposed repeal fear that ISPs will either secretly slow (a process known as throttling) the internet connections of users accessing content owned by other ISPs or simply block content they don’t want their users to see.

Instead of enforcing wide-ranging rules, the FCC will work with the FTC to “take targeted action against bad actors,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

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