The FTC has begun its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection with a full-day session today co-sponsored by and held at the Georgetown University Law Center. The event is the first in a series of hearings examining whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require the Commission to adjust its competition and consumer protection enforcement priorities. The series of public hearings, in conjunction with the public comment process, will provide the FTC with a diverse range of viewpoints intended to stimulate evaluation of key enforcement and policy issues. The agency has postponed a second session originally scheduled for tomorrow due to potential weather-related disruptions, and will announce a new date. The Commission has announced the second hearing, a full-day event on September 21 at the FTC’s Constitution Center facilities in Washington, D.C. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz will deliver an opening address on the state of competition in the United States, and former FTC Chairman William E. Kovacic will deliver remarks on the evolution of U.S. antitrust law. Moderated panel discussions will address the state of U.S. antitrust law as well as monopsony power. The FTC will hold additional sessions throughout the fall and early winter, some yet to be announced. On October 15-17 at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, topics will include: identification and analysis of collusive, exclusionary, and predatory conduct by digital and technology-based platform businesses; antitrust framework for evaluating acquisitions of potential or nascent competitors in digital marketplaces; and antitrust evaluation of labor markets. On October 23-24 at the FTC’s Constitution Center, the topic will be innovation and intellectual property policy. On November 6-7 at American University Washington College of Law, the topic will be privacy, big data, and competition. On November 13-14 at Howard University School of Law, the topic will be algorithms, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics.
A Federal judge granted the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the proposed merger of Tronox Limited and Cristal, pending the outcome of administrative litigation before the FTC. The companies are top suppliers in the United States and Canada of chloride process titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white pigment used in paints, industrial coatings, plastic and paper. Tronox has announced its intention to appeal the ruling.
The operators of a debt collection business that allegedly used false claims and threats to get people to pay debts – including debts they did not owe or that the defendants had no authority to collect – are banned from the debt collection business and from buying or selling debt, under settlements with the FTC. In addition to their allegedly fraudulent conduct, according to the FTC complaint, defendants illegally contacted consumers’ employers and other third parties, and failed to provide written notices and disclaimers required by law. Each order imposes a $3 million judgment that will be partially suspended, due to the defendants’ inability to pay. The full judgments will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
Sellers of hockey pucks and recreational and outdoor equipment agreed to stop making false “Made in USA” claims in two FTC cases. In the hockey puck matter, the FTC alleged that Patriot Puck claimed in its advertising, packaging, and promotional materials: “Made in America,” “Proudly Made in the USA,” “100% American Made!” and “The only American Made Hockey Puck!” In fact, Patriot Puck’s hockey pucks are wholly imported from China. In the recreational and outdoor equipment matter, the FTC alleged that Sandpiper of California, Inc. and PiperGear USA, Inc. claimed in advertisements, product labels, and promotional materials, and on company websites and social media, that their backpacks, travel bags, wallets, and other products are all or virtually all made in the United States. In fact, Sandpiper imports more than 95 percent of its products as finished goods, and approximately 80 percent of PiperGear’s products either are imported as finished goods, or contain significant imported components. Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued a concurring statement and Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a dissenting statement addressing the matters.
The FTC will welcome five foreign colleagues from agencies of the European Commission, India, Japan, and Switzerland on September 17 to work alongside staff of the Bureaus of Competition and Economics, and the Office of International Affairs for about three months. Since the program’s inception in 2007 under the staff exchange provision of the U.S. SAFE WEB Act, 111 international colleagues from 38 jurisdictions have had an opportunity to work with FTC attorneys, economists, and investigators, gaining first-hand experience of how the FTC carries out its enforcement and policy work. This includes 77 International Fellows and 34 SAFE WEB Interns.
With the arrival of the 2018 hurricane season, the FTC has published tips on preparing for, dealing with, and recovering from the long-term impacts of a hurricane, as well as information on giving wisely to help those in need.
The Bureau of Competition has published a blog post to make parties and their counsel aware that it typically takes four weeks for the FTC to review a consent package after staff and the parties formally submit the settlement package to the Director of the Bureau of Competition. This includes two weeks for review by the Directors of the Bureaus of Competition and Economics followed by review of their recommendations by the Commission. While the Commission review typically takes two weeks, the Commission’s time to review and to vote is solely in the Commission’s discretion.
Econsumer.gov Consumer Education Video Is Now Available in Six Languages
A consumer education video on reporting online international scams to econsumer.gov, a joint project of consumer protection agencies around the world, is now available in Polish (subtitled), as well as in English, French, Korean, Spanish, and Turkish (subtitled). The Polish version will be posted next week. Help share the video to ensure it reaches as many consumers as possible. Through econsumer.gov, agencies work together to combat consumer fraud. To learn how your organization can participate in and promote this project, please contact Hui Ling Goh of the FTC’s Office of International Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.