Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Music Teachers National Association, Inc. # 00187

Submission Number:
Alan Johnson
Initiative Name:
Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter of Music Teachers National Association, Inc.
Matter Number:


I was shocked to learn of the Federal Trade Commission’s recent complaint concerning a provision in the Music Teachers National Association’s Code of Ethics that discourages the solicitation by teachers of students from other music studios. First, and perhaps foremost, this provision is merely a suggestion. It is in no way a law or rule; its violation does not result in a monetary fine, verbal or written reprimand, or any other punishment. To call this ethical guideline a “violation of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition” is a baffling overreaction by the FTC. Second, the FTC’s decision assumes incompetence on the part of the consumer. Potential music students and their parents certainly are aware they have a choice of teachers. When choosing an instructor to begin lessons, or when transferring to another studio, these consumers will research their options using the resources available to them. Blatant solicitation by their current instructor’s competitor is not necessary or desirable. And finally, the pursuit of students of other music studios is unethical. This standard is accepted by other professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, and, in a more general sense, the layperson. Imagine the public reaction to news of a pastor distributing his promotional pamphlets during services at a rival church; of a man proposing to a married woman; or of a stranger luring an adopted child by claiming she would make a better parent than the child’s current mother. These are crude examples, but they serve to illustrate the point that those with a current place of worship, husband, legal guardian – or piano teacher – should be considered off-limits to the solicitation of "competitors." Explicitly stated or implicitly understood, this code of conduct has been and will continue to be followed by the vast majority of teachers despite the FTC’s decision.