|[BILLING CODE 6750-01]
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
16 CFR PART 256
REQUEST FOR COMMENT CONCERNING
AGENCY: Federal Trade Commission.
ACTION: Request for public comment.
SUMMARY: The Federal Trade Commission ("Commission") requests public comment on the overall costs and benefits and the continuing need for its Guides for the Law Book Industry ("Law Book Guides" or "Guides"), as part of the Commission's systematic review of all current Commission regulations and guides.
DATES: Written comments will be accepted until [Insert date 60 days after date of publication in Federal Register].
ADDRESS: Mailed comments should be directed to: Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, Room H-159, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Mailed comments should be identified as "Law Book Guides, 16 CFR Part 256 -- Comment." E-mail comments will be accepted at [email@example.com]. Those who comment by e-mail should give a mailing address to which an acknowledgment can be sent.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edwin Rodriguez, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580, telephone number (202) 326-3147.
The Commission promulgated the Law Book Guides under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act ("FTC Act"), 15 U.S.C. 45, on August 8, 1975, 40 FR 33436, and they became effective eight months thereafter.(1) The Guides contain seventeen sections, or guides, that provide guidance regarding the sale of legal reference materials to the law profession and law schools. The seventeen guides cover practices ranging from the marketing of legal reference materials to consumers, to the supplementation of these materials and billing practices employed by sellers.
Guides 1 through 9 pertain to solicitations for the sale of legal reference materials, particularly direct-mail promotional materials or oral representations. Guide 1 advises that sellers should make disclosures properly identifying the product being sold (e.g., title, publisher, editor, copyright, price, type of binding, whether product is part of set or series). Guide 2 recommends disclosures regarding the supplementation of products offered for sale, including the kind of supplementation currently being supplied, its frequency, cost, credits or discounts for supplements in connection with the original purchase, and information pertaining to the continuation or abandonment of supplementation. Guide 3 advises sellers to disclose the general scope of a work. For publications that are not supplemented, Guide 4 advises that sellers should inform prospective purchasers if a work offered for sale will be replaced or substantially revised within a year of the sale (and the approximate date of replacement or revision), and that sellers should offer refunds or credits to buyers who have not been so informed. Guide 5 advises sellers against misrepresenting that the product is new, current, or up-to-date. Guide 6 advises that direct-mail promotional materials or oral representations soliciting the sale of specific texts or treatises should clearly and conspicuously disclose the names of authors or editors who contributed substantial parts to a work when a title contains the name of a person who did not author or edit, or who only partially authored or edited, the work. It also advises sellers to disclose the sources of the work's contents, whether a work is a compilation, other titles under which the work has been published, and information identifying the previous version of a revision or new edition of a work. Guide 7 advises that solicitations for the sale of works not yet published should not represent that the publication has been published and should disclose that the publication is planned or contemplated and that inquiries or orders are being solicited to determine demand for the publication. Guide 8 advises against misrepresenting the jurisdictional scope of works offered for sale. Guide 9 pertains to disclosures in catalog listings describing law publications.
Guides 10-13 address practices that take place after the purchase of legal reference materials. Guide 10 pertains to subscription renewals. It advises that subscription renewal notices should not be sent to anyone who is not a current subscriber of the work, and that notices should indicate renewal numbers (i.e., first or second renewal). Guides 11 through 13 relate to disclosures that should be made on publications themselves. Guide 11 advises sellers to disclose specific information identifying the publication (e.g., titles and subtitles of books and series, the edition number, original title of revised publication, authors, editors, publisher). Guide 12 warns against the use of misleading jurisdictional designations on publications. Guide 13 specifies certain disclosures that should be made on supplements (e.g., title of publication or set to which the supplement belongs, the names of authors, editors, or compilers of the publication and the supplements, and the date covered by the supplement, or the month and year of issuance of each replacement sheet).
Guide 14 pertains to upkeep services and is designed to furnish the seller and buyer with a clear understanding of what upkeep services are being ordered. Many upkeep services provide for automatic shipment of supplementation materials. The Guide advises that sellers should clearly and conspicuously disclose the provisions of such automatic upkeep services before any agreement for the purchase of legal materials is entered, that they should provide upkeep services that include only materials that are absolutely essential to make a set or series functional, and that they should not require the purchase of other, non-basic upkeep services.
Guide 15 concerns the billing process and includes recommendations regarding account management and information that should appear on invoices and billing statements. Guide 16 states that sellers should not add to a publication materials that are not substantially germane to its subject matter. Finally, Guide 17 advises generally against misleading or deceptive representations regarding a publication or supplementation or any service offered in connection therewith.
II. REGULATORY REVIEW PROGRAM
The Commission has determined to review all current Commission rules and guides periodically. These reviews seek information about the costs and benefits of the Commission's rules and guides and their regulatory and economic impact. The information obtained assists the Commission in identifying rules and guides that warrant modification or rescission. Therefore, the Commission solicits comment on, among other things, the economic impact of and the continuing need for the Law Book Guides; possible conflict between the Guides and state, local, or other federal laws; and the effect on the Guides of any technological, economic, or other industry changes.
III. REQUEST FOR COMMENT
The Commission solicits written public comment on the following questions:
(1) Is there a continuing need for the Law Book Guides?
(2) What changes, if any, should be made to the Guides to increase the benefits of the Guides to purchasers? How would these changes affect the costs the Guides impose on firms who conform to the Guides? How would these changes affect the benefits to purchasers?
(3) What significant burdens or costs, including costs of compliance, have the Guides imposed on firms who conform to the Guides? Have the Guides provided benefits to such firms? If so, what benefits?
(4) What changes, if any, should be made to the Guides to reduce the burdens or costs imposed on firms who conform to the Guides? How would these changes affect the benefits provided by the Guides?
(5) Do the Guides overlap or conflict with other federal, state, or local laws or regulations?
(6) Since the Guides were issued, what effects, if any, have changes in relevant technology or economic conditions had on the Guides? For example, do sellers use E-mail or the Internet to promote or sell legal reference materials covered by the Guides? If so, in what manner? Does use of this new technology affect consumers' rights or sellers' responsibilities under the Guides?
(7) Are there private industry standards addressing the practices covered by the Guides?
(8) Are there any abuses occurring in the promotion, sale, or distribution of legal reference materials covered by the Guides that are not dealt with in the Guides? If so, what mechanisms should be explored to address such abuses (e.g., consumer education, industry self-regulation, revisions to the Guides)?
List of Subjects in 16 CFR Part 256: Advertising, Law, Trade practices.
Authority: 15 U.S.C. 41-58.
By direction of the Commission.
DONALD S. CLARK
1. Section 5 of the FTC Act declares unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices to be unlawful. Corrections to the Guides were published on August 19, 1975, 40 FR 36116.