Photo: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
Joseph Simons in February 2018 during a confirmation hearing to become chairman of the Federal Trade Commission in advance of taking office May 1. On June 20, the FTC announced it would hold a series of hearings to address whether sweeping changes are needed in how it enforces consumer protection and marketplace competition. less
Joseph Simons in February 2018 during a confirmation hearing to become chairman of the Federal Trade Commission in advance of taking office May 1. On June 20, the FTC announced it would hold a series of … more
Photo: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
FILE – This Jan. 28, 2015 file photo shows the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) building in Washington. The FTC says identity theft protection company LifeLock is misleading consumers about the level of protection and the timeliness of the warnings they will receive, and charges that LifeLock isnt living up to a previous $12 million settlement with regulators. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) less
FILE – This Jan. 28, 2015 file photo shows the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) building in Washington. The FTC says identity theft protection company LifeLock is misleading consumers about the level of … more
Photo: Alex Brandon / Associated Press
Under its newly sworn-in chairman, the Federal Trade Commission is planning what it promises will be a landmark series of hearings to analyze whether emerging technologies and evolving business practices require an overhaul of how it regulates consumer protection and competition in the economy.
The FTC is soliciting input from the public through Aug. 20 on a wide range of issues listed online at www.ftc.gov, from the issue of individuals’ right to privacy in a “big data” age in which businesses scour for personal information, to its own enforcement powers in chasing down bad actors.
“A fundamental characteristic of a strong institution is a willingness to engage with new ideas and, in our case, changes in markets and business-to-business and business-to-consumer relationships,” stated new FTC Chairman Joseph Simons in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Important and significant questions recently have been raised about whether we should rethink our approach to some of these issues.”
The FTC anticipates holding between 15 and 20 hearings between September and next January, with dates and locations to be determined, addressing the FTC’s authority to deter deceptive conduct related to privacy and data security, and its overall powers to enforce regulations and sanction wrongdoers. Other topics will include:
the competitive effects of corporate mergers;
“monopsony” power in which a single buyer can drive down prices;
dovetailing state and federal regulations governing deceptive practices;
implications for consumers of artificial intelligence; and
intellectual property’s role in promoting innovation.
In 2017, the FTC obtained judicial orders for malefactors to repay nearly $5.3 billion as a result of their actions, the large majority of it the result of the federal investigation of Volkswagen for evading emissions requirements for diesel vehicles that will ultimately total $11.5 billion under a judge’s order last year.
Last year, more than 3.1 million individual consumers received $269 million in direct redress as a result of FTC intervention, with the commission levying additional penalties of $176 million last year.
The announcement comes less than two months after Simons became chairman of the FTC in place of Maureen Ohlhausen who held the role on an acting basis since the February 2017 departure of Obama appointee Edith Ramirez.
Simons has worked in senior antitrust roles at both the FTC and the Department of Justice, and most recently was a partner with Paul Weiss, a corporate law firm with offices in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Wilmington, Del.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection may submit its own commentary to the FTC as part of the upcoming hearings, according to Michelle Seagull, who was appointed commissioner in May 2017 by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and who was a private-sector attorney previously with a focus on unfair competition.
“Consumers are now doing business with organizations that do not have physical locations within the state,” Seagull said. “So much business is done online.”
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