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In opening remarks at the Federal Trade Commission's hearings on global and innovation-based competition, FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky said today that law enforcement agencies have an obligation to take current economic conditions into consideration when evaluating policies.

"The hearings that we initiate today are designed to address the responsibility of ensuring that the competition and consumer protection policies we enforce continue to be relevant in the modern economy," Pitofsky said.

"We assume that the core aspects of these enforcement regimes...have served the country well," he added. "These hearings therefore will not address the question of the fundamental validity of antitrust and consumer protection efforts, but rather whether there are adjustment that need to be made, in substantive law enforcement and in procedure, to take into account the vast changes that have occurred in commercial markets in the second half of the 20th Century."

According to Pitofsky, when the FTC was established in 1914, one of the tasks assigned to the Commission was to gather for the use of Congress and the public accurate and complete information about industry sectors and the nature of competition.

"These hearings are designed to restore the tradition of linking law enforcement with a continuing review of economic conditions to ensure that the laws make sense in light of contemporary conditions," Pitofsky said.

The hearings will present the opinions and experiences of a wide variety of witnesses from government, the business world and academia during the next ten weeks. Topics that will be covered include, among others:

  • *how automobile and textile companies are changing their supply and distribution setups to compete more successfully internationally (Oct. 18);
  • *business strategies used by U.S. steel companies to compete more effectively (Oct. 19);
  • *how pharmaceutical research is changing to provide more competition with brand name drugs (Oct. 23);
  • *how universities and small businesses are collaborating to increase small businesses' ability to compete globally (Oct. 26 and Nov. 8);
  • *the number of hospitals necessary to ensure low prices and quality care in a given community (Nov. 7 and Nov. 14);
  • *whether issues relating to failing firms and distressed industries warrant new approaches in antitrust enforcement (Nov. 14);
  • *how new marketing technologies, such as interactive TV and personal communications systems (PCS), will affect consumers (Nov. 16 and Nov. 17);
  • *how marketing in cyberspace will create new opportunities for consumers and new concerns regarding payment security and privacy (Nov. 20); and
  • *network issues in computer, banking and telecommunications industries (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1).

Following the conclusion of the hearings, Pitofsky said a report will be presented to the public and Congress on the status of United States competition and consumer protection enforcement policies on the eve of the 21st Century.

To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: