FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen released the agency’s 2017 Annual Highlights. The FTC’s Enforcement Highlights summarize the notable competition cases the agency brought during the past year in sectors ranging from health care and technology to telemarketing and student debt, as well as other consumer products and services. On the consumer protection side in 2017, the FTC distributed over $269 million in redress directly to more than 3 million consumers.
The agency also supported refund programs administered by FTC defendants that delivered more than $5 billion in refunds. The report also details the agency’s international enforcement cooperation. With regard to the competition mission, the FTC cooperated with international counterparts on 38 merger and anticompetitive conduct cases of mutual concern with 21 jurisdictions. In the consumer protection area, the FTC cooperated on enforcement-related mutual assistance with foreign agencies or multilateral organizations in 51 matters, including by using its powers under the U.S. SAFE WEB Act. Through its International Fellows Program, the FTC brought 15 foreign officials from competition, consumer protection, and privacy agencies to work alongside FTC staff.
Acting Chairman Ohlhausen and FTC officials were among the almost 500 delegates from over 70 jurisdictions who participated in the ICN’s 17th annual conference. The conference showcased FTC-led projects, including revised recommendations on merger notification and procedures and new guiding principles, recommendations, and implementation advice on due process in competition investigations. Acting Chairman Ohlhausen spoke on a key plenary program that addressed advocating for pro-competitive policies, and FTC staff led sessions on mergers, investigation process, advocacy, and implementation.
The FTC denied Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board's motion to dismiss the FTC's complaint alleging that the board unreasonably restrained price competition for appraisal services in Louisiana. According to the Opinion and Order, the board's conduct was not immune under the state action doctrine because the evidence proffered by the Board was insufficient to demonstrate the doctrine's active supervision requirement.
The FTC issued an administrative complaint challenging CDK Global, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of competitor Auto/Mate, Inc. alleging the acquisition would harm competition in dealer management system software for new car dealers. The parties terminated the merger agreement shortly after the complaint issued.
Two providers of ambulance services have agreed to divest inter-facility air ambulance transport services in Hawaii to settle FTC charges that their proposed merger would likely harm competition. According to the FTC complaint, they are the only two providers of air ambulance services between medical facilities on different Hawaiian islands.
Oregon Lithoprint Inc., owner of the News-Register, a twice-weekly community newspaper, agreed to settle FTC charges that it invited a competitor to collude in an arrangement to divide the market for placement of foreclosure notices.
The FTC modified its 2014 order to remedy CoreLogic Inc.’s failure to comply fully with the agreement entered into as a condition of CoreLogic’s acquisition of DataQuick Information Systems, Inc.
Uber Technologies, Inc. has agreed to expand the proposed settlement it reached with the FTC last year over charges that the ride-sharing company deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices. After the announcement of last year’s proposed settlement, the Commission learned that Uber had failed to disclose a significant breach of consumer data that occurred in 2016. Due to Uber’s misconduct related to the 2016 breach, Uber will be subject to additional requirements. Among other things, the revised settlement could subject Uber to civil penalties if it fails to notify the FTC of certain future incidents involving unauthorized access of consumer information.
Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, issued a statement regarding reported concerns about Facebook’s privacy practices. He confirmed that the FTC has an open nonpublic investigation into these practices.
At the request of the FTC, a federal court has halted the activities of four individuals who allegedly promoted deceptive money making schemes involving cryptocurrencies. The defendants claimed that they could turn a payment of the equivalent of just over $100 into $80,000 in monthly income. The FTC alleges that the structure of the schemes ensured that the majority of participants would fail to recoup their initial investments.
The FTC has charged a business opportunity scheme with falsely claiming that people who buy the defendants’ expensive “Amazing Wealth System” will learn “secrets for making money on Amazon” and likely earn thousands of dollars a month. In fact, most, if not virtually all, purchasers do not earn the advertised income. Many of the strategies and techniques included in the “system” are deceptive and violate Amazon.com’s rules.
FTC Joins More Than 20 Countries at African Consumer Protection Dialogue Conference
The FTC, along with agencies responsible for enforcing consumer protection and related laws in over 20 countries, along with other stakeholders, met in Banjul, Gambia for the 9th African Consumer Protection Dialogue Conference. The focus was Protecting Every Consumer in the Digital Economy.
FTC Shares Its Experience with Privacy and Data Security Experts in India
With the release of a government white paper on data security and privacy, these issues are at the forefront of a policy debate in India. To share the FTC’s experience in privacy enforcement, research, international engagement, and education campaigns, OIA attorneys Betsy Broder and Guilherme Roschke organized and conducted a workshop in New Delhi in March with key stakeholders.
FTC Holds International Enforcers Roundtable
The FTC Office of International Affairs, with FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen and former FTC Bureau Director/former ABA Antitrust Section Chair Bill MacLeod, held an International Consumer Protection and Data Privacy Enforcer’s Roundtable with officials from more than a dozen agencies and international organizations.
The FTC and Department of Justice announced that they plan to hold a joint public workshop in Washington, DC on June 5 to explore competition issues in the residential real estate brokerage industry. The workshop will focus on developments since the publication of the FTC and DOJ’s Report on Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry in 2007.
FTC Acting Chairman Ohlhausen appointed Alden F. Abbott as Acting General Counsel. Abbott was previously a deputy director of the FTC Office of International Affairs, an associate director and assistant director of the Bureau of Competition, and an attorney advisor in the Office of Policy Planning. Most recently, he has been senior legal fellow and deputy director of the Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
FTC staff submitted a comment to the New York State Education Department in support of a proposed regulatory change that would reduce the burdens on experienced Canadian dentists who wish to practice in New York. The change would allow them to use the same licensure process that experienced dentists from other U.S. states use.