Rules likely raised prices for consumers, complaint alleges
The American Guild of Organists has agreed to eliminate rules that restrict its members from competing for opportunities to perform.
The agreement between the FTC and the American Guild of Organists resolves a complaint by the agency alleging that the guild’s rules restrained competition and harmed consumers in violation of the FTC Act.
According to the FTC, the guild rules generated complaints from consumers and organists. The guild represents approximately 15,000 member organists and choral directors in 300 chapters in the United States and abroad.
Under the guild’s code of ethics, if a consumer wished to have someone other than an “incumbent musician” play at a venue for a wedding, funeral or other service, the consumer was required to pay both the incumbent and the consumer’s chosen musician. The code of ethics stated that “members are advised to protect themselves as incumbents” through contracts that secure fees even if they don’t perform.
The guild also developed and publicized compensation schedules and formulas, and instructed its chapters and members to develop and use regionally applicable versions to determine charges for their services.
The proposed consent order settling the FTC’s charges requires the American Guild of Organists to stop restraining its members from soliciting work as musicians, and to stop issuing compensation schedules, guidance, or model contract provisions for members to use to determine their compensation. The guild must implement an antitrust compliance program, and is required under the order to stop recognizing chapters that fail to certify their compliance with the order’s provisions.
Details about the case are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter. The Commission vote to accept the consent agreement containing the proposed consent order for public comment was 2-0.
The FTC will publish the consent package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 2, 2017, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Comments can be filed electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $40,654.
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Office of Public Affairs
Karen A. Mills
Bureau of Competition