Following a U.S. District Court ruling granting the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction against Wilhelmsen Maritime Services’ proposed $400 million acquisition of Drew Marine Group, Wilhelmsen announced that it will abandon the transaction. According to a statement by FTC Bureau of Competition Acting Deputy Director Haidee L. Schwartz, the acquisition would have led to higher prices and diminished service in the supply of marine water treatment chemicals to global fleets.
A Texas company that provides therapist staffing services to home health agencies, its owner, and the former owner of a competing staffing company agreed to settle FTC charges that they agreed to reduce pay rates for home-care therapists in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and invited other competitors to collude on the rates. The proposed consent order prohibits the parties from colluding with competitors on compensation paid to their employees or independent contractors. Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a statement inviting public comment on aspects of the resolution of this matter, which is available here.
Spain-based global healthcare company Grifols S.A. agreed to divest three blood plasma collection centers, among other conditions, as part of a settlement resolving charges that Grifols’ acquisition of Florida-based Biotest US Corporation would harm competition in the markets for collection of human blood plasma in three U.S cities.
The FTC Bureau of Competition announced a new model timing agreement that provides a framework for the timing of certain steps in a merger investigation. Timing agreements allow for more efficient substantive engagement between FTC staff and the parties, and ensure that staff has notice of parties' plans to consummate the transaction. Click the headline above for a blogpost with more on the new timing agreement.
The FTC and the State of Minnesota have charged a Minnesota-based company, Sellers Playbook, with running a large business opportunity scheme that promised purchasers they were likely to earn thousands of dollars per month selling products on Amazon. Most consumers lost money but the defendants, who have no affiliation with Amazon.com, took in more than $15 million from consumers. The FTC also charged defendants with violating the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) through contracts that improperly sought to restrict consumers’ right to review the products and services they purchased. This is the FTC’s first action under the CRFA, which went into effect in December 2017.
The FTC, along with state and local law enforcement officials and charity regulators, announced more than 100 actions and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor,” a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and armed services members. The initiative includes an education campaign, in English and Spanish, to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities.
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The FTC, working with State partners, conducted the first compliance sweep of car dealerships since the amended Used Car Rule took effect earlier this year. Under the amended Rule, dealers must display a revised window sticker called a “Buyers Guide,” which contains warranty and other important information for consumers, on each used car they offer for sale. Agencies conducted the compliance sweep in 20 cities nationwide. The inspectors found Buyers Guides on 70 percent of the more than 2,300 vehicles inspected, with almost half displaying the revised Buyers Guide.
In testimony before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, the FTC described its work to protect consumers and promote competition, and stressed its commitment to anticipating and responding to changes in the marketplace. The Commissioners also testified about the FTC’s work with international partners on a wide range of consumer protection, privacy, and competition enforcement and policy matters, and noted the agency’s commitment to leveraging its resources through cooperation with law enforcement partners to maximize effects. The five Commissioners also testified that during FY 2017, the Commission returned over $543 million in redress to consumers and deposited $94 million into the U.S. Treasury. In addition, in FY 2017, FTC orders in the Volkswagen, Amazon, and Net Spend matters required defendants to self-administer consumer refund programs worth more than $11.5 billion.
The FTC testified before Congress about its enforcement program to fight consumer fraud, and the Commission’s actions against payment processors that facilitate fraud. The FTC has brought 25 enforcement actions against unscrupulous payment processors that helped fraudsters violate the FTC Act by actively helping merchants hide their fraudulent conduct from acquiring banks and payment networks or by turning a blind eye to the merchants’ fraud.
The FTC testified before Congress about its enforcement of the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s privacy protections. Identifying FCRA enforcement as a “top priority,” the FTC pointed to the more than 30 actions to enforce the FCRA against consumer reporting agencies, users of consumer reports, and furnishers of information to consumer reporting agencies. The FCRA requires consumer reporting agencies to follow reasonable procedures to ensure that they provide consumer report information only to those with a “permissible purpose” for receiving it, to maintain reasonable procedures to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of the information, and to allow consumers to dispute and correct information in their consumer reports.
The FTC responded to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ request for comment to its publication, Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs. The publication seeks to “increase competition and end the gaming of regulatory processes that may keep drug prices artificially inflated or hinder generic, branded, or biosimilar competition.” The FTC comment focuses on two topics in the Blueprint that affect a significant portion of U.S. health care expenditures: misuse of Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) programs and biologic competition.