Advocacy Filings

When government bodies and other organizations consider cases or policy decisions that affect consumers or competition, the FTC may offer insight and expertise to decision makers by filing an advocacy letter. To find a specific filing, use the filters on this page.

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FTC Staff Comment Before the Office of the National Coordinator For Health Information Technology, Regarding Its Draft Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap For Health Information Technology Systems

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FTC staff submitted a comment to ONC, in response to ONC’s request for comments on its draft Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. The comment offered guidance on promoting competition (as well as the privacy and security of consumer data) as part of ONC’s plan to increase the adoption of interoperable health IT systems by 2024. With respect to competition issues, the comment encouraged ONC to consider how the economic interests of health care providers and health IT vendors align with the benefits of interoperability, such as lower health care costs, improved population health, empowered consumers and ongoing innovation. The comment also offered guidance on shared governance mechanisms and the development of technical standards. To balance the benefits of standard setting, such as lower switching costs and reduced barriers to entry, with its potential risks, the staff comment encouraged ONC “to consider taking steps to ensure that coordinated governance by market participants does not unduly distort competition.”

FTC Staff Comment Before the Federal Communications Commission On Public Notice DA 14-1700, Regarding the Issues Relating To Carrier Implementation of Call-Blocking Technology

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CG Docket No. 02-278

WC Docket No. 07-135

FTC staff submitted a comment to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a public notice seeking input on call-blocking. Staff stressed that consumers continue to be barraged by unwanted telemarketing calls, and that a large part of the solution is “call-blocking technology – i.e., a ‘spam filter’ for the phone. The carriers have so far avoided adopting such technology, claiming that the FCC legal framework does not allow phone companies to block calls, even if their customer requests call-blocking. Concluding the comment, the FTC writes that, “An affirmative statement from the FCC that common carriers can offer call-blocking services to their consumers without violating their common carriage obligations would be in the best interest of American consumers.”

FTC Staff Comment Before the Department of Defense (DoD) on Proposed Amendments to DoD’s Regulations Implementing the Military Lending Act

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The Federal Trade Commission filed a comment on the Department of Defense’s proposed amendments to its regulation implementing the Military Lending Act (“MLA”). FTC staff supports DoD’s efforts to implement strong consumer protections for service members, and gave their support for a number of the proposed amendments, including the new framework for creditors to ensure that consumers entitled to the MLA’s protections are accurately identified, as well as efforts to stop creditors that evade MLA coverage while offering a substantially similar product to those products currently covered by the existing rule. FTC staff was concerned, however, about the proposal to give certain types of creditors, such as insured credit unions, limited or complete exemptions from the regulations. Staff was also opposed to the elimination of the requirement that information be disclosed “clearly and conspicuously.”

FTC Staff Comment Before the Commission on Dental Accreditation Concerning Proposed Accreditation Standards for Dental Therapy Education Programs

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FTC staff submitted a comment to CODA, in response to CODA’s request for public comments on the 2014 version of its proposed accreditation standards for dental therapy education programs. The comment urged CODA to finalize and adopt accreditation standards, which likely will benefit consumers. In a previous comment to CODA in December 2013, FTC staff commended CODA’s then-proposed standards as an important first step in encouraging the development of a nationwide dental therapy profession, and recommended revisions to portions of the standards that may have limited competition for dental services. Now that many of those concerns had been addressed, the FTC staff comment urged CODA “to finalize and adopt proposed standards without unnecessary delay, so that the development of this emerging service model can proceed, and consumers can reap the likely benefits of increased competition.”

Comment Filed by Jessica Rich, Discussing Voluntary Code of Conduct for Utilities and Third Parties Providing Consumer Energy Use Services

BCP Director Jessica Rich wrote a letter to the Federal Smart Grid Task Force, of the U.S. Department of Energy regarding their draft Voluntary Code of Conduct (VCC) for protecting consumer energy use data. She suggested three changes to the draft VCC. First, she suggested adding a requirement for “just-in-time” consumer disclosure, particularly for mobile apps. Second, she suggested that all disclosures be required to be “clear and conspicuous.” Third, she suggested that the “prevailing state/local business practice” exception, for not following portions of the code, be clarified so that it is not interpreted as an individual company’s decision whether or not to follow parts of the VCC, after they have adopted it.

Federal Trade Commission Staff Reply Comment to the New York State Public Service Commission on “Reforming the Energy Vision” Project

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The FTC staff submitted a reply comment in response to certain comments filed with the New York State Public Service Commission (NY PSC) regarding the proposal to authorize the establishment of entities known as Distributed System Platform (DSP) operators, which would be responsible for balancing electricity supply and demand on local, lower-voltage distribution lines. The FTC staff comment recommended the use of a competitive procurement process to select the entities that will serve as DSP operators. This would allow a variety of bidders to show how they could keep administrative costs low, remove incentives to discriminate against independent distributed energy resources, and provide other benefits to electricity customers. The FTC staff comment also encouraged the NY PSC to use a competitive procurement approach to appoint independent market monitors to evaluate the performance of DSP operators, and suggested ways to improve the performance of the electric distribution system.

Federal Trade Commission Comment Before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Regarding the NHTSA Proposed Rule Entitled “Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards: Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications,” and the Accompanying Report

The FTC filed a comment on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) advance notice of proposed rulemaking related to vehicle-to-vehicle communications. As the lead federal agency charged with protecting consumer privacy, the FTC in its comment expresses support for NHTSA’s deliberative, process-based approached to addressing privacy and security risks, which includes a privacy risk assessment. The comment also commends NHTSA for designing a V2V system to limit the data collected and stored to only that which serves its intended safety purpose.

FTC Staff Comment Before the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Concerning Proposed 22 TEX ADMIN CODE §§ 108.70, 108.74 That Would Restrict the Ability of Texas Dentists to Enter into Agreements with Non-Dentists for the Provision of Admin Services

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FTC staff, in response to a notice requesting public comments, filed a comment urging the TSBDE to reject two proposed rules that would impose new restrictions on the ability of Texas dentists to enter into contracts with non-dentists, such as dental service organizations, for the provision of nonclinical, administrative services. The comment explained that such restrictions may reduce competition, likely resulting in higher prices and reduced access to dental services, especially for underserved populations.

FTC Staff Comment on Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s Proposed Customer Due Diligence Rule for Financial Institutions

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FTC staff filed a comment on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of Treasury, supporting the proposed Customer Due Diligence Rule. Among other requirements, the proposed rule would require financial institutions to collect information on the individuals who are the beneficial owners of a legal entity when the entity opens an account. The comment notes that the proposed Rule should improve the FTC’s ability to track down those perpetrating fraud against consumers in situations where individuals used legal entities or "shell" companies to disguise their involvement with fraudulent operations.

Federal Trade Commission Comment Before the Federal Communications Commission Regarding the Privacy and Security Practices of Broadband Providers and Their Impact On Broadband Adoption

The FTC filed a comment before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its inquiry into the status of broadband availability and deployment to all Americans, in which the FCC asked for comment on, among other things, the relevance of privacy and/or data security concerns to consumer adoption of broadband. The comment provided information on the FTC’s enforcement, policy, and education work related to consumer privacy and data security, as applied to residential broadband internet services. The comment highlighted FTC efforts to promote consumer privacy and data security through rigorous enforcement of the FTC Act, the FCRA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the obligations of broadband service providers under these laws.

FTC Staff Comment Before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Regarding the Use of Mobile Financial Services By Consumers and Its Potential For Improving the Financial Lives of Economically Vulnerable Consumers

FTC staff filed a comment before the CFPB in response to its request for information on the use of mobile financial systems by consumers and their potential benefits for the financial lives of underserved consumers. The staff comment highlighted consumer protection issues posed by mobile financial services and the steps taken by the FTC to address them. These issues include: the potential liability for unauthorized charges using prepaid or stored value products; unfair billing practices on mobile carrier bills; the privacy of consumers’ personal and financial data; the security of consumers’ personal and financial data; and the potential use of consumers’ information by data brokers and other third parties.

FTC Staff Comment Before the ERISA Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of Labor Regarding Pharmacy Benefit Manager Compensation and Fee Disclosure

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Staff submitted a comment containing information that may be useful to the Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, regarding issues relating to PBM compensation and fee disclosure. The comment discussed prior FTC analyses relating to the Council’s general inquiry, and addressed some recent questions directed to FTC staff by the Council.

FTC Staff Comment Before the New Jersey General Assembly Regarding Assembly Bills 2986, 3096, 3041, and 3216, Which Would Create Limited Exceptions to New Jersey’s Prohibition on Direct-to-Consumer Sales by Manufacturers of Automobiles

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FTC staff submitted a comment, in response to a request from New Jersey Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty, regarding four bills that each would permit, to varying degrees, some manufacturers to sell cars directly to consumers under limited circumstances. The comment concluded that the bills likely would increase competition relative to the existing blanket ban on all other methods of selling cars. The comment further urged a complete repeal of the prohibition on direct sales, which would more fully benefit consumers.

FTC Staff Comment Before the Missouri House of Representatives Regarding House Bill 1124, Which Would Expand the Current Prohibition on Direct-to-Consumer Sales by Manufacturers of Automobiles

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FTC staff submitted a comment, in response to a request from Missouri State Representative Michael J. Colona, regarding Missouri House Bill 1124. The bill would amend the Missouri Motor Vehicle Franchise Act, which prohibited franchisors of new motor vehicles from owning or operating a new motor vehicle dealership in the state. The proposed amendments would expand the scope of the existing restrictions on direct sales, and require that all new motor vehicles in Missouri be sold through independent dealers. The staff comment noted that the current law likely harmed both competition and consumers and the proposed amendments would amplify such adverse effects and discourage innovation. Furthermore, the comment encouraged Missouri to consider abandoning existing law and to permit manufacturers and consumers to reengage the normal competitive process that prevails in most other industries.

FTC Staff Comment Before the Missouri House of Representatives Regarding Missouri House Bills 1481 and 1491

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Staff submitted a comment, in response to a request by Representative Jeanne Kirkton of the Missouri House of Representatives, regarding Missouri House Bills 1481 and 1491. HB 1491 would allow APRNs to assess and diagnose patients and order diagnostic and therapeutic tests and procedures, without a collaborative practice arrangement with a particular physician as required under existing Missouri law. HB 1481 would allow physicians and APRNs to collaborate electronically, replacing a law requiring their offices to be physically nearby. The staff comment stated that the bills would curtail costly barriers to competition that may deter procompetitive innovation in health care delivery. The comment referenced staff’s March 2014 policy paper, Policy Perspectives: Competition and the Regulation of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, for support.

FTC Staff Comment to the Honorable Brendan Reilly Concerning Chicago Proposed Ordinance O2014-1367 Regarding Transportation Network Providers

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FTC staff submitted a comment, in response to a request from Alderman Brendan Reilly of the Chicago City Council, regarding a proposed ordinance that would provide for the licensing and operation of transportation network providers (TNPs), particularly software applications that enable consumers to arrange for transportation services via personal vehicles. The comment stated that, if regulation of TNP services are warranted, regulation should focus primarily on ensuring the safety of customers and drivers and other consumer protection issues. The comment noted that some provisions may unnecessarily impede competition, and recommended that the City Council carefully consider the justification for and effects of such provisions. The comment also recommended that the city should more clearly allow for flexibility and experimentation in pricing.

FTC Staff Comment Before the Illinois State Senate Regarding Senate Bill 2629, Which Would Repeal Certain Provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code That Currently Prohibit the Sale or Long-Term Lease of New or Used Automobiles on Sunday in Illinois

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FTC staff submitted a comment, in response to a request from Illinois State Senator James Oberweis, regarding the competitive impact of repealing the state’s prohibition on the sale or long-term lease of vehicles on Sundays. The staff comment stated that repealing the mandatory Sunday closing provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code likely would enhance competition and benefit consumers. The comment observed that existing law eliminated the possibility of competition among auto dealers to determine the Sunday hours of operation that would be most responsive to consumer preferences and most beneficial to consumers. The comment further noted that the probable effects of the mandatory Sunday closing laws extend beyond vehicle sales and long-term leasing, because auto dealers also provide repair services and sell replacement parts.

Federal Trade Commission Staff Comment To the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services Regarding the Proposed Rule Entitled "Contract Year 2015 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs"

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Staff submitted a comment to CMS, in response to a request for public comments, regarding proposed changes in contracting for Medicare Part D. The comment recommended that CMS reconsider a proposal to implement an “any willing pharmacy” provision, and further examine whether such provisions are likely to benefit Part D beneficiaries and the Part D program. The comment noted that health plans’ ability to construct networks that include some, but not all, providers can be an important tool to enhance competition and lower costs in markets for health care goods and services.

FTC Staff Comment Before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Regarding Its Investigation of Time-Varying Retail Rates for Electric Power

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DPU 14-04

FTC staff submitted a comment in response to a request by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for comments on its investigation of dynamic pricing for residential electricity customers. The staff comment articulated the potential benefits of dynamic pricing and identified fundamental difficulties in reconciling the “basic” rate-regulated service in Massachusetts with rapid innovations in services and equipment – such as “smart” appliances and electric cars – which enable customers to respond to incentives to reduce electricity consumption during peak demand. The comment recommended that DPU adopt a peak-time rebate plan similar to that adopted by Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E), once appropriate electric meters and associated consumer education and consumer protection programs are in place.

FTC Staff Comment Before NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association, Regarding Proposed Revisions To the NACHA Operating Rules Described in the Request For Comment - ACH Network Risk and Enforcement Topics

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FTC staff filed a comment supporting NACHA’s proposal to strengthen its rules to monitor bank debit transactions conducted through the Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) Network, including those that have been most closely associated with consumer fraud. The comment also urged NACHA to make clear that its thresholds do not represent an acceptable level for returns, but rather are a signal that enhanced scrutiny of a merchant’s business is warranted.