Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen announced several internal process reforms in the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection that will streamline information requests and improve transparency in Commission investigations. The reforms are part of Acting Chairman Ohlhausen’s efforts to further the agency’s mission to protect consumers and promote competition without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.
“It is our duty to carry out our vital mission in the most effective and efficient way possible,” said Acting Chairman Ohlhausen. “The changes announced today will reduce unnecessary and undue burdens of FTC investigations without compromising our ability to protect American consumers.”
This past April, Ohlhausen announced new internal Working Groups on Agency Reform and Efficiency to improve processes and focus resources where they will do the most good for the public. As part of this initiative, Ohlhausen directed the Bureau of Consumer Protection to identify best practices to streamline information requests and improve transparency in investigations. The process reforms announced today address CIDs (Civil Investigative Demands) in consumer protection cases, and include:
- Providing plain language descriptions of the CID process and developing business education materials to help small businesses understand how to comply;
- Adding more detailed descriptions of the scope and purpose of investigations to give companies a better understanding of the information the agency seeks;
- Where appropriate, limiting the relevant time periods to minimize undue burden on companies;
- Where appropriate, significantly reducing the length and complexity of CID instructions for providing electronically stored data; and
- Where appropriate, increasing response times for CIDs (for example, often 21 days to 30 days for targets, and 14 days to 21 days for third parties) to improve the quality and timeliness of compliance by recipients.
In addition, to ensure companies are aware of the status of investigations, the Bureau will adhere to its current practice of communicating with investigation targets concerning the status of investigations at least every six months after they comply with the CID.
The Acting Chairman initiated this project in part to address concerns raised by Members of Congress and the American Bar Association Antitrust Section’s Presidential Transition Report about the investigational burdens on legitimate companies. The agency continues to consider other reforms.
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