On March 5, 2008, the Federal Trade Commission challenged the conduct by two Connecticut chiropractic associations and one of their attorneys to implement a collective refusal to deal with a cost-saving health plan in Connecticut. The FTC’s complaint charged that the parties’ actions unreasonably restrained competition in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. In settling the FTC’s charges through consent agreement, the parties will refrain from engaging in such anticompetitive conduct in the future. A consent agreement does not constitute an admission of a law violation but does carry the force of law for future actions.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that the Connecticut Chiropractic Association (CCA), the Connecticut Chiropractic Council (CCC), and Robert L. Hirtle (CCA’s legal counsel) conspired through a campaign of meetings and other communications to encourage and facilitate a collective refusal to deal with American Specialty Health (ASH). The FTC claims that the purpose and effect of the boycott was to prevent ASH from providing its cost-saving chiropractic benefits administration program in Connecticut. Furthermore, according to the FTC, the challenged conduct had no legal justification and, thus, was a naked boycott among competitors and a clear per se violation of the antitrust laws. This challenge is another example of the FTC’s concern of anticompetitive practices occurring in the healthcare industry.