Mark Your Calendar: FTC Schedules Series of Public Hearings

Advertising Law

At the top of the list of priorities for the new Federal Trade Commission: taking stock.

The agency—at full capacity with a brand-new slate of commissioners for the first time in years—announced a series of public hearings on “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.”

Scheduled for the fall and winter of 2018–19, the hearings and public comment process will resemble a similar analysis that took place in 1995’s “Global Competition and Innovation Hearings” overseen by then-Chair Robert Pitofsky. Those hearings were followed by the release of a two-volume staff report in May 1996 with analyses and recommendations on competition and consumer protection policies.

With the first hearing set for September, the FTC invited public comment on several topics, including competition and consumer protection issues in communication, information and media technology networks, as well as the intersection between privacy, big data and competition.

Stakeholders can also share their thoughts on the role of intellectual property and competition policy; the Commission’s investigation, enforcement and remedial processes; and the state of antitrust and consumer protection law and enforcement and their development since the Pitofsky hearings.

Other areas the FTC would like to hear about include the interpretation and harmonization of state and federal statutes and regulations that prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices, and the Commission’s remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters.

Additional opportunities for comments will arise with the release of topics before each hearing session. In addition, the Commission plans to reopen the public comment period upon completion of the entire series of 15 to 20 hearings, all of which will be webcast and open to the public.

The Commission hopes that the hearings and public comment process will provide an opportunity for FTC staff and leadership to hear an array of perspectives and “stimulate thoughtful internal and external evaluation” of the agency’s near- and long-term law enforcement and policy agenda. Areas that require study and problems that need enforcement or policy guidance may also arise from the process, the Commission said.

For more about the hearings or to submit a comment, click here.

Why it matters: “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 Chair Joe Simons said in a statement about the hearings. “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.”