FTC Announces Consumer Protection Hearings

This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced plans to hold public hearings this fall and winter on whether adjustments to consumer protection enforcement law and related policy are warranted in light of the economic landscape and new technologies.

“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 commented. “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.”

According to an FTC press release, the hearings and public comment process will provide opportunities for agency staff to field comments from interested parties about investigation and enforcement policy agenda.

Public comments on any of the following topics of particular interest to the FTC can be submitted:

  1. The state of antitrust and consumer protection law and enforcement
  2. Competition and consumer protection issues
  3. The identification and measurement of market power and entry barriers, and conduct that violates the consumer protection statutes enforced by the FTC
  4. Privacy, big data and competition
  5. The FTC’s authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters
  6. The competitive effects of corporate acquisitions and mergers
  7. Evidence and analysis of labor markets
  8. The role of IP and competition policy in promoting innovation
  9. The consumer welfare implications associated with the use of algorithmic decision tools
  10. The interpretation state and federal statutes and regulations that prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices
  11. The FTCs investigation and enforcement

Comments will not be restricted to these subjects and can be made in relation to a specific industry, such as high-tech. The hearings are expected to begin in September 2018 and continue through January 2019.

The announcement follows the FTC’s submission of comments to the Consumer Product Safety Commission about potential safety issues associated with Internet-connected consumer products and ways to mitigate such risks. In its comments, the agency emphasized that poor security in IoT devices create technology-related hazards associated with the loss of critical safety function, loss of connectivity or degradation of data integrity.

The FTC provides IoT manufacturers with guidance on how to predict and mitigate against privacy and security risks.

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

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Richard B. Newman

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