FTC Announces Hearings Aimed at Discussing Consumer Protection Priorities

The Federal Trade Commission has announced it will hold a series of public meetings about its consumer protection prerogatives and priorities.

Up to 20 public hearings will be conducted between this September and January 2019, the agency announced. The title for the series is “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.” The aim is to determine “whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection enforcement law, enforcement priorities, and policy,” the FTC said in a statement announcing the hearings.

“The FTC has always been committed to self-examination and critical thinking, to ensure that our enforcement and policy efforts keep pace with changes in the economy,” FTC chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. “When the FTC periodically engages in serious reflection and evaluation, we are better able to promote competition and innovation, protect consumers, and shape the law, so that free markets continue to thrive.”

The FTC last undertook such a move in 1995 under then-chairman Robert Pitofsky, the agency said. It did host a series of meetings back in 2015 aimed at discussing the debt collection industry. The agency has developed a dedicated website for the hearings.

In preparation for the hearings, the FTC is seeking comment from the public to help determine the agenda and topics to be discussed. The FTC is seeking comment in the following areas:

  1. The state of antitrust and consumer protection law and enforcement, and their development, since the Pitofsky hearings;
  2. Competition and consumer protection issues in communication, information, and media technology networks;
  3. The identification and measurement of market power and entry barriers, and the evaluation of collusive, exclusionary, or predatory conduct or conduct that violates the consumer protection statutes enforced by the FTC, in markets featuring “platform” businesses;
  4. The intersection between privacy, big data, and competition;
  5. The Commission’s remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters;
  6. Evaluating the competitive effects of corporate acquisitions and mergers;
  7. Evidence and analysis of monopsony power, including but not limited to, in labor markets;
  8. The role of intellectual property and competition policy in promoting innovation;
  9. The consumer welfare implications associated with the use of algorithmic decision tools, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics;
  10. The interpretation and harmonization of state and federal statutes and regulations that prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices; and
  11. The agency’s investigation, enforcement, and remedial processes.


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