Approval of Omnibus Compulsory Process Resolution:
- To ensure that its staff has the tools necessary to combat fraud and deception on the Internet, the Federal Trade Commission today announced that it has approved an omnibus compulsory process resolution to investigate Internet advertisers, sellers and promoters. The compulsory process enables the Commission to require the production of documents and other materials and to compel testimony in connection with an investigation. The new omnibus resolution authorizes the use of compulsory process to investigate possible violations of the FTC Act in connection with the advertising and sale of goods or services over the Internet.
The Commission has omnibus resolutions in place for other consumer protection matters. Now that the omnibus resolution for Internet investigations has been approved, a single Commissioner will be able to review and sign Commission documents requiring the submission of materials or testimony regarding those investigations. The Commission vote to authorize the resolution was 3-1, with Commissioner Orson Swindle dissenting. In his dissenting statement, Commissioner Swindle wrote that the resolution's "exceptionally broad delegation of power to staff simply is unnecessary" and "hinders direct, proactive review by the full Commission of Internet-related enforcement issues." He observed that "[j]ust about any business is likely in the next few years to advertise, sell or promote its goods or services on the Internet, thus bringing almost any investigation within the scope of this resolution."
Continuing, Swindle advocated the use of alternative forms of compulsory process resolutions tailored by subject matter or limited to particular investigations. Noting that in the past year only a few of these narrower resolutions had come before the full Commission in consumer protection matters, he stated that "[i]t is premature to conclude that these alternatives involve so much delay or impose so great a burden on Commission resources as to warrant abandoning the benefits of full Commission review of process resolutions in favor of a single resolution of unprecedented breadth."
In the majority statement FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky and Commissioners Sheila F. Anthony and Mozelle W. Thompson wrote, "The Commission has brought nearly one hundred Internet-related cases and has taken the lead in combating online fraud. Speed and anonymity are key in Internet fraud. Hence, speed is also critical to identifying perpetrators and ending consumer injury. The proposed omnibus resolution affords needed speed and efficiency to respond to the Internet's unique capabilities. ... [A]ppropriate checks are still in place for all omnibus resolutions. ... To fulfill its law enforcement duties, the Commission routinely has put in place such resolutions to ensure it can act as efficiently as possible. This is no different ... ." (FTC File No. 994-412; media contact is: Victoria Streitfeld, 202-326-2718).
- The Commission has approved an interagency memorandum of understanding (MOU) between FTC, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The MOU concerns cooperation with respect to the monitoring of competitive conditions in the agricultural marketplace.
The Commission vote to approve the joint MOU was 4-0; (FTC File No. P859910; staff contact is: Richard Dagen, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2628).
Copies of the documents mentioned in this FYI are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC Help (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
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