Statement by FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Regarding North Carolina Dental Board Matter

For Release

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez issued the following statement regarding today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission:    

“Today, the Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Trade Commission’s position in recognizing that a state may not give private market participants unsupervised authority to suppress competition even if they act through a formally designated ‘state agency’.  

In this case, the North Carolina dental board’s members, primarily dentists, were drawn from the very occupation they regulate, and they barred non-dentists from offering competing teeth whitening services to consumers.  The Court’s decision makes clear that state agencies constituted in this manner are subject to the federal antitrust laws unless the state actively supervises their decisions.

The FTC works to promote competition across the economy and advocates on the behalf of Americans to help prevent occupational licensing requirements, which now govern a significant and growing segment of the economy, from unduly suppressing pro-consumer competition. 

We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s recognition that the antitrust laws limit the ability of market incumbents to suppress competition through state professional boards.  We will remain vigilant through our enforcement initiatives and advocacy to safeguard competition and ensure that American consumers benefit from entrepreneurial initiative.”

The Court’s decision affirms a 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit upholding a 2011 Decision and Order by the FTC that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners illegally thwarted lower-priced competition by engaging in anticompetitive conduct to prevent non-dentists from providing teeth whitening services to consumers in the state.  In so finding, the FTC rejected the Dental Board's claim that the Board’s conduct is protected from federal antitrust scrutiny by the state action doctrine.    

The FTC’s Bureau of Competition works with the Bureau of Economics to investigate alleged anticompetitive business practices and, when appropriate, recommends that the Commission take law enforcement action. To inform the Bureau about particular business practices, call 202-326-3300, send an e-mail to antitrust{at}ftc{dot}gov, or write to the Office of Policy and Coordination, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Room CC-5422, Washington, DC 20580. To learn more about the Bureau of Competition, read Competition Counts. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs