Commission approval of petition to reopen and modify final order: The Commission has approved a petition from Aventis S.A. (Aventis), the successor company to Hoechst AG and Rhone-Poulenc S.A. (RP), to reopen and modify a final consent order regarding the 1999 merger of most of the two companies’ businesses. Under the terms of the Commission order, which became final on January 20, 2000, Aventis was required to reduce to five percent its holdings in Rhodia, a French-based chemical company in which RP held a 67 percent share at the time of the merger. The respondents were given approximately five years to complete their sale of Rhodia shares.
Through its petition, Aventis had requested that the Commission reopen and modify the 2000 final order to allow it to divest its Rhodia shares to Credit Lyonnais (and other potential purchasers) in a manner that leaves Aventis with a residual interest in the performance of the shares for a period of time. Specifically, Aventis petitioned the FTC to add the following language into Paragraph VI.D. of the Order, following the time-period requirements for the divestiture: “...provided, however, that for the purposes of this Paragraph VI.D. only, the April 16, 2003, agreement between Respondents and Credit Lyonnais or any substantially similar financial agreements that relate to Rhodia’s share performance, between Respondents and the purchaser(s) of Respondents’ Rhodia voting securities, shall not be considered Respondents’ ‘holdings in Rhodia.’”
The Commission vote to reopen and modify the order was 4-0-1, with Chairman Timothy J. Muris not participating. Through this action, the FTC has: 1) reopened and modified the order to allow Aventis to divest voting securities of Rhodia in a manner that allows Aventis to use a hedging arrangement in connection with the sale of the stock, and 2) extended the deadline for divestiture by 12 months, until April 22, 2005. (Docket No. C-3919; staff contact is Jeffery Dahnke, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2111; see press releases dated December 7, 1999; and August 17, August 25, September 28; November 7, 2001, September 20 and December 3, 2002; and October 3, 2003.)
Commission authorization of the staff to file amended complaints: The Commission has authorized the staff to file an amended complaint in the matter currently pending against Savvier, Inc., Savvier, LP, Greer Childers, Jack Ching Chung Chang, Jeffrey T. Tuller, and Keith Greer. The FTC’s complaint in this matter, announced on November 10, 2003, alleged the defendants falsely advertised that their product – the BodyFlex+ System – would cause consumers to quickly lose inches and fat. Through the amended complaint, which is now available on the Commission’s Web site, the FTC has: 1) added BodyFlex, Inc. as a defendant; 2) dismissed defendant Keith Greer; 3) revised the complaint’s common enterprise allegation; and 4) included an allegation that certain claims are unsubstantiated, in addition to being false. The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the amended complaint was 5-0. (FTC File No. 032-3212, Civ. No. CV-03-8159 FMC (JTLx); the staff contacts are Robin Rosen Spector, 202-326-3740 and Lemuel Dowdy 202-326-2981, Bureau of Consumer Protection; see press release dated November 10, 2003.)
The Commission has authorized the staff to file an amended complaint in the matter currently pending against Platinum Universal, LLC, et al. The FTC’s complaint in this matter, announced on November 10, 2003, alleged the defendants engaged in an advance-fee credit card fraud targeting the Hispanic community. Through this action, the Commission has added Michael Kirkovich as a defendant in this matter. The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the amended complaint was 5-0. (FTC File No. X040006; the staff contact is Ann F. Weintraub, FTC Northeast Region, 212-607-2815; see press relea:se dated November 24, 2003.)
Commission approval of Federal Register notices: The Commission has approved the publication of two federal register notices concerning regulations for the eye care industry. The first notice announces the publication of a proposed rule (the Contact Lens Rule) to implement the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (the Act). The second notice announces the termination of the FTC’s regulatory review of its Ophthalmic Practice Rules (the Eyeglass Rule). Both of the notices will be published shortly in the Federal Register, and are now available on the FTC Web site as a link to this press release.
As detailed in the first notice, the Commission is seeking public comment on its proposed Contact Lens Rule implementing the Act, which the President signed into law on December 6, 2003. The Act contains two key requirements. The first requirement is that contact lens prescribers (i.e., optometrists and ophthalmologists) must provide patients with a copy of their contact lens prescriptions at the completion of a contact lens fitting. The second requirement is that a contact lens seller cannot provide contact lenses to its customer unless the seller either obtains a copy of the prescription or verifies the prescription information with the prescriber through procedures set forth in the Act. The purpose of these requirements is to enhance consumer choice and competition among contact lens sellers, thereby benefitting consumers.
The Act directs that the Commission issue an implementing rule. The FTC has published a proposed Contact Lens Rule that closely tracks the language in the Act, including its core prescription release and verification requirements. The Commission also proposes two proposed clerical amendments to the Eyeglass Rule designed to clarify the distinction between the Eyeglass Rule and the proposed Contact Lens Rule. The FTC has announced that comments concerning the proposed Contact Lens Rule and clerical amendments to the Eyeglass Rule will be accepted through April 5, 2004.
As detailed in the second notice, the FTC published a Federal Register notice in April 1997 as part of its systematic review of all Commission rules and regulations, seeking public comment on whether to modify, rescind, or retain the Eyeglass Rule. The notice describes the types of comments received and states that the Commission intends to retain the Eyeglass Rule unchanged. The Commission vote approving publication of the Federal Register notices was 5-0. (FTC File Nos. R411002 and R011001; the staff contact is Kial Young, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3525).
Commission approval of final consent order: Following a public comment period, the Commission has approved a final consent order in the matter concerning General Electric Company and Agfa Gevaert, N.V. The Commission vote approving the final consent order was 3-0-2, with Chairman Timothy J. Muris not participating and Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour recused. (FTC File No. 031-0097; staff contact is Joanne C. Lewers, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2667; see press release dated December 18, 2003).
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release 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 Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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