Billing Code: 6750-01P
FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE
Public Workshop: Possible Anticompetitive Efforts to Restrict Competition on the Internet
AGENCY: Federal Trade Commission
ACTION: Notice of Public Workshop and Opportunity for Comment
SUMMARY: The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC" or "Commission") announces a public workshop on "Possible Anticompetitive Efforts to Restrict Competition on the Internet." The workshop will focus on how certain state regulation may have anticompetitive effects, and how certain business practices may raise antitrust concerns, in the context of business-to-consumer e-commerce. The workshop will be held at and administered by the FTC.
DATES: The workshop will take place on October 8-10, 2002. The workshop will be transcribed and placed on the public record. Any interested person may submit written comments responsive to any of the topics to be addressed; such comments should be submitted no later than the last session of the workshop. Any written comments received also will be placed on the public record.
ADDRESSES: When in session, the workshop will be held at the FTC headquarters, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. All interested parties are welcome to attend. Pre-registration is not required.
Written comments should be submitted in both hard copy and electronic form. Six hard copies of each submission should be addressed to Donald S. Clark, Office of the Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Submissions should be captioned "Comments regarding ecompetition." Electronic submissions may be sent by electronic mail to "email@example.com". Alternatively, electronic submissions may be filed on a 3-1/2 inch computer disk with a label on the disk stating the name of the submitter and the name and version of the word processing program used to create the document.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jerry Ellig, Deputy Director, Office of Policy Planning, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; telephone (202) 326-3528; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Detailed agendas for the workshop will be available on the FTC Home Page (http://www.ftc.gov) and through Mildred Taylor, Staff Secretary, at (202) 326-2553.
In the past decade, there has been growing concern about possibly anticompetitive efforts to restrict competition on the Internet. In particular, many states have enacted regulations that have the direct effect of protecting local merchants from competition over the Internet. For example, some states require that online vendors maintain an in-state office, while other states prohibit online sales of certain products entirely. Some scholars have argued that these regulations are often simply attempts by existing industries to forestall the entry of new and innovative Internet competitors, much as in prior eras, other entrenched producers have benefitted from regulatory efforts to impede new forms of competition.
Similarly, some private companies have engaged in conduct that may raise antitrust issues. For instance, some manufacturers and dealers do not list prices for certain items online, and others do not sell certain items over the Internet altogether and urge horizontal competitors to do the same. Depending on the circumstances, some of these restrictions could be viewed as potentially anticompetitive. While much of this regulation and conduct undoubtedly has pro-competitive and pro-consumer rationales, the regulations impose costs on consumers that, according to some estimates, may exceed $15 billion annually.
For these reasons, a workshop on possible anticompetitive efforts to restrict competition on the Internet is timely, and will build on previous FTC-sponsored events that addressed other aspects of e-commerce.(1) In order to enhance the Commission's understanding of particular practices and regulations, the workshop will have panels to address certain specific industries, including some or all of the following: retailing, automobiles, cyber-charter schools, real estate / mortgages, health care / pharmaceuticals / telemedicine, wine sales, auctions, contact lenses, and funerals (caskets).
Each of these industries has experienced some growth in commerce via the Internet, but according to various commentators, each also may have been hampered by anticompetitive state regulation or business practices. See, e.g., Atkinson, The Revenge of the Disintermediated (Jan. 2001) (report of the Progressive Policy Institute); Atkinson and Wilhelm, The Best States for E-Commerce (Mar. 2002) (second report of the Progressive Policy Institute). In addition, these industries involve goods and services that comprise a very large portion of a consumer's budget, such as homes, cars, schools, and health care.
It is intended that each industry panel have at least one independent analyst or academic, and also have representatives from the affected industries (on both sides of the issue). Where appropriate, the panel also will include a representative from a government agency, including (where appropriate) representatives from different states. We hope that each panel will provide all sides of the issue, including the perspectives of industry, intermediaries, consumers, and regulators.
The Commission also invites comments concerning other industries, not listed above, that may raise similar issues and merit similar examination.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of issues to be addressed by the workshop. Written comments need not address all of these issues.
1. General Issues
2. Issues for Particular Industries
The Commission welcomes suggestions for other questions that also should be addressed. Proposed questions, identified as such, may be sent by electronic mail to email@example.com.
By direction of the Commission.
Donald S. Clark