Focusing on engagement with the public and other agencies, the FTC had its hands full last week commenting on regulations and hosting events on hot-button issues like the impact of AI on creative industries and the July 2023 Draft Merger Guidelines. More on these actions, as well as an update on student debt related actions, after the jump.
Monday, October 2, 2023
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Advertising and Marketing
- The staff in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection submitted a comment to the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services in support of proposed amendments to the regulations implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (“MHPAEA”). In particular, the staff expressed concerns both about the harm substance abuse disorders (“SUDs”) cause and about how bad actors may take advantage of consumers seeking treatment. The comment further detailed how the FTC has used the enforcement tools in the 2018 Opioid Addition Recovery Fraud Prevention Act to bring four enforcement actions against individuals and companies that have deceptively marketed their products and/or services by falsely claiming such products could help treat addiction. Also, the comment emphasized that because insurance coverage does not completely insulate consumers from these bad actors, enforcement agencies need resources to combat these types of illegal practices. Though the comment expresses the views of the staff and not necessarily the views of the FTC or any of its Commissioners, the Commission voted 3-0 to approve the filing of the staff comment.
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Bureau of Competition: AI and Competition
- The FTC hosted a virtual roundtable to engage in a discussion about the impact of generative AI on creative fields. The event kicked off with opening remarks from FTC Chair Lina Khan, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, and Madeline Varner of the FTC’s Office of Technology. Numerous groups in the creative industry participated in the roundtable remarks on the impact that AI poses to the industry: SAG-AFTRA, the National Association of Voice Actors, the Writers Guild of America West, the American Federation of Musicians, the Concept Art Association, and the Artist Rights Alliance. Finally, Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya delivered the closing remarks to end the virtual event.
Thursday, October 5, 2023
Bureau of Competition: Merger Guidelines
- The FTC and the DOJ co-hosted a workshop aimed at soliciting public dialogue on the 2023 Draft Merger Guidelines announced in July of this year. The event featured two main panels: the first on “Evidentiary and Analytical Tools for Assessing Competition” and the second on “Competition For, On and to Displace Platforms and Entrenchment.” Among other individuals, the panels included enforcers, practitioners, academics and economists on issues for which public comment would be most helpful. Through the panels and the workshop more generally, the FTC and DOJ aimed to express “how the agencies determine a merger’s effect on competition in the modern economy and evaluate proposed mergers under the law.”
Friday, October 6, 2022
Bureau of Consumer Protection: Student Loan Debt Relief
- The FTC announced two stipulated proposed orders, one with SL Finance and the other with BCO Consulting, settling allegations that the companies engaged in student debt relief scams. When we first reported on these actions in a May 2023 post, the FTC had alleged that the companies falsely claimed to be affiliated with the Department of Education, falsely promised to take over services for students’ loans, and improperly charged hundreds if not thousands of dollars in illegal fees. Under the stipulated proposed orders, SL Finance and BCO Consulting are permanently banned from engaging in a debt relief business of any kind. Additionally, they are prohibited from making any misrepresentations about financial products or services and from collecting financial information of consumers under false pretenses. The SL Finance order imposes a judgment of $5.8 million as does the BCO Consulting order. However, both judgments are partially suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay.