The FTC’s past week focused on the future. From Director Levine’s comments about consumer protection in the digital era to the House passing H.R. 3843, the FTC is in a forward-looking posture. More on this, as well as a settlement secured by the FTC, after the jump.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation, Conference

  • Director Samuel Levine delivered prepared remarks at the BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, Conference as a keynote speaker. The title of the BEUC Conference was, “To Empower, Not to Weaken: Rethinking Consumer Protection in the Digital World” and focused on what the BEUC referred to “digital asymmetry” or a power imbalance in the digital world that consumers face. Director Levine’s comments focused on four areas: 1) commercial surveillance, 2) the proliferation of unfair algorithms, 3) review manipulation, and 4) dark patterns. Director Levine highlighted the consumer imbalance in each of these areas, emphasizing that the onus of responsibility cannot remain with consumers while the government sits idly. He stated “[w]e don’t expect consumers to evaluate for themselves whether their food is laden with toxins, and we shouldn’t expect them to fend for themselves when it comes to digital tricks and traps.” Additionally, Director Levine highlighted the FTC’s efforts to combat and limit harmful digital practices. One example is through remedies the FTC seeks, such as data minimization requirements, multifactor authentication options, and the destruction of algorithms. BEUC is based in Brussels, Belgium and brings together over thirty countries to defend the interest of consumers.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

House of Representatives: Antitrust Legislation

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3843, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act. If the bill becomes law, it would increase the filing fees for large mergers and slightly decrease the filing fees for small mergers. The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act is a package of antitrust legislation, which beyond the filing fee changes, includes a provision that would require companies filing pre-merger notifications to include information about subsidies from foreign entities of concern in the filing and a provision that would prevent antitrust lawsuits brought by state attorneys general from being transferred to other districts in multidistrict litigation. The House passed the Merger Filling Fee Modernization Act 242-184. The FTC has declined to comment on the legislation thus far. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, said the bills would generate revenue for the antitrust enforcement agencies, make foreign interests in transactions more transparent and streamline antitrust enforcement for state attorneys general. The Biden Administration made a formal statement in support of the bill.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Bureau of Competition: Coordinated Interaction, Refusal to Deal, Healthcare

  • The FTC secured a settlement with San Juan IPA, an independent physician association in New Mexico. San Juan IPA will pay a $263,000 civil penalty to the FTC to settle allegations that the company violated a 2005 consent order. The FTC’s case alleged that San Juan IPA orchestrated agreements among competing physicians to coordinate and establish a joint pricing scheme. Specifically, San Juan IPA allegedly negotiated a two price-related provision with a payor, threatened to terminate a payor contract unless the payor sped up negotiations with its providers, and encouraged member providers to deal only through San Juan IPA. The Commission voted 5-0 to authorize the civil penalty complaint and to approve the judgment. However, Commissioners Phillips and Wilson issued a concurring statement emphasizing the importance for companies to abide by FTC consent orders and the FTC’s duty to protect consumers from cartels.