FTC Announces Hearings On Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century

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The Federal Trade Commission today announced that the agency will hold a series of public hearings on whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection enforcement law, enforcement priorities, and policy. The multi-day, multi-part hearings, which will take place this fall and winter, will be similar in form and structure to the FTC’s 1995 “Global Competition and Innovation Hearings” under the leadership of then-Chairman Robert Pitofsky. 

“The FTC has always been committed to self-examination and critical thinking, to ensure that our enforcement and policy efforts keep pace with changes in the economy,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons commented today. “When the FTC periodically engages in serious reflection and evaluation, we are better able to promote competition and innovation, protect consumers, and shape the law, so that free markets continue to thrive.”

The hearings and public comment process will provide opportunities for FTC staff and leadership to listen to interested persons and outside experts representing a broad and diverse range of viewpoints. Additionally, the hearings will stimulate thoughtful internal and external evaluation of the FTC’s near- and long-term law enforcement and policy agenda. The hearings may identify areas for enforcement and policy guidance, including improvements to the agency’s investigation and law enforcement processes, as well as areas that warrant additional study.

In advance of these hearings, public comments on any of the following topics may be submitted to the FTC: 

  1. The state of antitrust and consumer protection law and enforcement, and their development, since the Pitofsky hearings;
  2. Competition and consumer protection issues in communication, information, and media technology networks;
  3. The identification and measurement of market power and entry barriers, and the evaluation of collusive, exclusionary, or predatory conduct or conduct that violates the consumer protection statutes enforced by the FTC, in markets featuring “platform” businesses;
  4. The intersection between privacy, big data, and competition;
  5. The Commission’s remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters;
  6. Evaluating the competitive effects of corporate acquisitions and mergers;
  7. Evidence and analysis of monopsony power, including but not limited to, in labor markets;
  8. The role of intellectual property and competition policy in promoting innovation; 
  9. The consumer welfare implications associated with the use of algorithmic decision tools, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics;
  10. The interpretation and harmonization of state and federal statutes and regulations that prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices; and
  11. The agency’s investigation, enforcement, and remedial processes.

The Commission will invite public comment in stages throughout the term of the hearings.

  • Through August 20, 2018, the Commission will accept public comment on the topics identified in the announcement. Each topic description includes issues of particular interest to the Commission, but comments need not be restricted to these subjects.
  • Additionally, the Commission will invite comments on the topic of each hearing session. The FTC will issue a news release before each session to inform the public of the agenda, the date and location, and instructions on submitting comment.
  • The Commission will also invite public comment upon completion of the entire series of hearings.

Public comments may address one or more of the above topics generally, or may address them with respect to a specific industry, such as the health care, high-tech, or energy industries.  Any additional topics for comment will be identified in later notices.

The hearings will begin in September 2018 and are expected to continue through January 2019, and will consist of 15 to 20 public sessions. All hearings will be webcast, transcribed, and placed on the public record. A dedicated website for information about the hearings including the schedule as it evolves can be found at www.ftc.gov/ftc-hearings.

Public Comments:  Interested parties are invited to submit written comments on the topics listed above to the FTC, either electronically at www.ftc.gov/ftc-hearings or in paper form. FTC staff may use these comments in any subsequent reports or policy papers.  Comments should refer to “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Hearings, Project Number P181201.” If an interested party wishes to comment on multiple topics, we encourage filing a separate comment for each topic. If an interested party wishes to make general comments about the hearings, we encourage filing a comment in response to Topic 1. For this stage of the public comment process, comments will be accepted until August 20, 2018.

If you prefer to file a comment in hard copy, write ‘‘Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Hearing, Project Number P181201,” on your comment and on the envelope and mail your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Suite CC–5610 (Annex C), Washington, DC 20580, or deliver your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Constitution Center, 400 7th Street SW., 5th Floor, Suite 5610 (Annex C), Washington, DC 20024.

The FTC Act and other laws that the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC’s privacy policy, available at ftc.gov/site-information/privacy-policy.

For Further Information Contact:  Derek Moore, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-3367, John Dubiansky, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2182 or email us at CCPhearings@ftc.gov.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

FTC Media Contact
Peter Kaplan
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2334