International Monthly: February 2018

 U.S. Competition, Consumer Protection and Privacy News




Acting FTC Chairman Ohlhausen Reports One Year of Agency Accomplishments

FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen released a summary of the agency’s major accomplishments between January 2017 and January 2018. See this infographic for details of the Commission’s accomplishments regarding competition and consumer protection enforcement, healthcare competition advocacy, economic liberty, privacy and data security, small business, military consumers, and agency streamlining/regulatory reform.


china meeting

U.S. Officials Meet with Chinese Anti-Monopoly Agencies

FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen and Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim participated in high level bilateral meetings with officials responsible for China’s three anti-monopoly agencies. The meetings covered a wide range of topics including enforcement and policy developments and priorities, the antitrust treatment of conduct involving intellectual property and its role in promoting innovation, and future opportunities for cooperation.


FTC Requires Divestiture of Retail Fuel Outlets as Condition of Acquisition

Seven & i Holdings Co., Ltd, the Tokyo-based parent company of the 7-Eleven network of convenience stores, agreed to conditions in order to settle FTC charges that its proposed $3.3 billion acquisition of approximately 1,100 retail fuel outlets from Sunoco would harm competition in 76 local markets across 20 metropolitan statistical areas. Under the terms of the consent agreement, 7-Eleven is required to sell 26 retail fuel outlets that it owns to Sunoco, and Sunoco is required to retain 33 fuel outlets that 7-Eleven otherwise would have acquired.

Bureau of Competition Acting Director Offers Views on Vertical Merger Enforcement

At a recent conference, Bruce Hoffman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, offered his views on vertical merger enforcement at the FTC. He addressed the key differences from an enforcement perspective between horizontal and vertical mergers, what facts might cause the FTC to pursue enforcement in a vertical merger, and what types of remedies the FTC seeks in vertical mergers.

Consumer Protection and Privacy

FTC Obtains Court Order Halting Business Coaching Scheme Promoted Via Social Media

At the FTC’s request, a federal court has temporarily halted a business coaching operation, Digital Altitude, that took more than $14 million from consumers seeking to start their own online business. The operation misrepresented that it would enable consumers to earn substantial income, such as “six figures in 90 days or less.” The defendants promoted their scheme via webpages and social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, and offered their marketing materials for consumers to use in posting their own ads touting the scheme.

children's privavy

Online Talent Search Company Settles FTC Allegations it Collected Children’s Information without Consent and Misled Consumers

Explore Talent, a web-based talent search company, has agreed to pay $235,000 in civil penalties to settle FTC charges that it failed to obtain parental consent before collecting and disclosing personal information from children, and that it misled consumers about the benefits of its premium paid services.

cancer scam

Marketers Barred from Making Deceptive Claims about Products’ Ability to Mitigate Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

CellMark Biopharma, LLC and its CEO have agreed to settle FTC charges that they made false or unsupported health claims about the effectiveness of two products for cancer patients: CellAssure, marketed for treatment of “cancer-related malnutrition,” and Cognify, advertised for treatment-related cognitive dysfunction or “chemo fog.”

In Other News

privacy report

FTC Releases Annual Privacy and Data Security Update

The FTC released its annual report on its privacy and data security work in 2017. The Commission is the nation’s primary privacy and data security enforcer and one of the most active privacy and data security enforcers in the world. Among FTC actions were settlements with computer manufacturer Lenovo and with Vizio, one of the world’s largest makers of smart TVs. In addition, the FTC brought its first three actions enforcing the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework.

occupational licensing

FTC Posts Videos on Burdens of Unnecessary Occupational Licensing Requirements

The FTC has posted a video of a “fireside chat” with Acting Chairman Ohlhausen on the burdens of unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. Unnecessary requirements impact millions of American workers and consumers – especially military families relocating from state to state.


FTC Releases Agenda for PrivacyCon 2018

The FTC released the final agenda for its February 28 PrivacyCon conference, which will highlight research that explores the privacy and security implications of emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

FTC Provides Comment to FCC Encouraging Providers of Call-Blocking Services to Take Steps to Avoid Blocking Wanted Calls

In a comment provided to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), staff of the FTC responded to the FCC’s request for input on potential mechanisms to address erroneously blocked robocalls, without imposing undue harm on callers and consumers. The comment encourages providers of call-blocking services to consider engaging in practices that could reduce the potential for blocking wanted calls, such as communicating clearly to subscribers the types of calls that are being blocked, using plain and specific terms to label calls, and providing designated points of contact to handle questions about calls blocked in error.

dating scams

FTC Warns Consumers About Online Dating Scams

The FTC receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships only to rob their victims. Click on this new infographic, developed by the FTC and the American Bankers Association Foundation, to see the common signs of online dating scams and find tips on how to handle them.

FTC Submits Staff Comment on Nebraska Occupational Licensing Reform Measure

FTC staff submitted written comments on proposed Nebraska legislation that would require review of the competitive impact of the state’s licensing regulations and laws, with the goal of procompetitive reform of restrictions on regulated occupations.

Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen Issues Statement on Announcement of the President’s Intent to Nominate Her to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims

“I am honored that the President has expressed his intent to nominate me to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, one of the oldest federal courts in our nation. In the meantime, I will continue to serve at the Federal Trade Commission until a time when I may be so fortunate as to be confirmed to the Court of Federal Claims by the United States Senate.”

confirmation hearing

Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Nominees to FTC

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a confirmation hearing (external link) on the President’s nominees to the FTC. Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issued a statement on the nominations: “I congratulate Christine Wilson, Noah Phillips and Rohit Chopra on their nominations to serve as Commissioners and Joseph Simons on his nomination as Chairman. I wish them all well in their respective confirmation processes.”

FTC Announces Annual Update of Thresholds

The FTC updated the size of transaction thresholds for premerger notification filings and interlocking directorates. The thresholds are revised annually, based on the change in gross national product.