The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division today announced an expedited antitrust procedure and guidance for collaborations of businesses working to rebuild communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Under the expedited procedure for proposed business conduct relating to the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the agencies will state their enforcement intentions within five business days of receiving the proposal.
The FTC and DOJ already have programs in place to provide guidance to businesses concerned about the legality of proposed conduct under the antitrust laws. The FTC’s “Staff Advisory Opinion” procedure and DOJ’s “Business Review Letter” procedure allow any firm, individual, or group of firms or individuals to submit a proposed business plan or activity to the agencies and to receive a statement whether the agencies will challenge the activity under the antitrust laws. That process typically entails at least a 90-day review period prior to the issuance of the agency’s guidance.
“We recognize that our nation must act expeditiously in our hurricane recovery efforts, and we commit to rapidly reviewing collaborations on relief projects,” said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. “We will, of course, continue to enforce aggressively against antitrust violators and those who use fraud to prey on consumers.”
The antitrust laws accommodate procompetitive collaborations among competitors, but the agencies have reiterated that they will not tolerate price-fixing and market allocation agreements by competitors seeking to prey on those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“The Department of Justice recognizes that there may be an extraordinary need for businesses to receive an expedited response from the Antitrust Division about its enforcement intentions so that they can move quickly to respond in areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said Thomas O. Barnett, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department’s Antitrust Division. “Joint ventures and other collaborative arrangements may be helpful in rebuilding after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the Antitrust Division is committed to helping to foster the recovery efforts.”
Under the expedited procedure, an applicant would have to provide the FTC or DOJ by fax, e-mail, or letter a written description of the proposal, including the parties that would be involved in the effort or activity and the name and contact information of a person from whom the agencies could obtain additional information. This expedited procedure is for use solely for post-hurricane relief efforts and may be invoked at the option of the requestor in lieu of the agencies’ standard procedures for handling requests for advice. Requests to the FTC should be submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (Hurricane Advice), Box 1C, Room 172-H, via fax at 202-326-2496; via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or via mail to the Federal Trade Commission (Hurricane Advice), Box 1C, Room 172-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Please note that paper mail in the Washington, D.C. area and at the Agencies is subject to delay.
The FTCs Bureau of Competition seeks to prevent business practices that restrain competition. The Bureau carries out its mission by investigating alleged law violations and, when appropriate, recommending that the Commission take formal enforcement action. For more information on the laws that the Bureau enforces, the Commission has published “Promoting Competition, Protecting Consumers: A Plain English Guide to Antitrust Laws,” which can be accessed at www.ftc.gov/bc/compguide/index.htm.