Antitrust Lawyer Blog Commentary on Current Developments

The FTC Is Requesting Public Comments Regarding Big Tech (Google, Facebook, Amazon and More

On June 20, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced that it will hold a series of public hearings on whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection enforcement law, enforcement priorities, and policy.  The multi-day, multi-part hearings will take place this fall and winter.

It is expected that a lot of time will be devoted to the dominant digital two sided platforms (Google, Facebook, and Amazon) as well as the associated network effects.  The FTC is interested in learning more about how their conduct hinders competition and innovation or how their services actually benefit consumers and enhance competition and innovation.

The hearings and public comment process will provide opportunities for FTC staff and leadership to listen to interested persons and outside experts representing a broad and diverse range of viewpoints.  Additionally, the hearings will stimulate thoughtful internal and external evaluation of the FTC’s near- and long-term law enforcement and policy agenda.  The hearings may identify areas for enforcement and policy guidance, including improvements to the agency’s investigation and law enforcement processes, as well as areas that warrant additional study.

In advance of these hearings, public comments on any of the following topics may be submitted to the FTC:

(1) The state of antitrust and consumer protection law and enforcement, and their development, since the Pitofsky hearings in 1995;

(2) competition and consumer protection issues in communication, information, and media technology networks;

(3) the identification and measurement of market power and entry barriers, and the evaluation of collusive, exclusionary, or predatory conduct or conduct that violates the consumer protection statutes enforced by the FTC, in markets featuring “platform” businesses;

(4) the intersection between privacy, big data, and competition;

(5) the FTC’s remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters;

(6) evaluating the competitive effects of corporate acquisitions and mergers;

(7) evidence and analysis of monopsony power, including but not limited to, in labor markets;

(8) the role of intellectual property and competition policy in promoting innovation;

(9) the consumer welfare implications associated with the use of algorithmic decision tools, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics;

(10) the interpretation and harmonization of state and federal statutes and regulations that prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices; and

(11) the agency’s investigation, enforcement, and remedial processes.  The FTC will invite public comment in stages throughout the term of the hearings:

The FTC will accept public comments through August 20, 2018.

The hearings will begin in September 2018 and are expected to continue through January 2019, and will consist of 15 to 20 public sessions.  All hearings will be webcast, transcribed, and placed on the public record. A website for information about the hearings including the schedule as it evolves can be found at www.ftc.gov/ftc-hearings.

If you are interested in filing comments and need help, let me know.

Andre Barlow
(202) 589-1838
abarlow@dbmlawgroup.com