The FTC announced yesterday that it will accept comments and hold a series of public hearings on consumer protection, privacy, and competition policy and enforcement. The hearings will take place during fall and winter of this year and will evaluate whether recent changes in the economy, technology, or international landscape require adjustments to how the Commission approaches consumer protection, privacy, and competition issues.
The hearings are modeled off of hearings held in 1995 under then-Chair Robert Pitofsky. Those hearings took place amidst the early growth of the internet and e-commerce, featuring panels such as, “The Newest Medium for Marketing: Cyberspace,” “Privacy in Cyberspace,” and “The Changing Role of the Telephone in Marketing.” The 1995 hearings featured panelists from large companies including Walt Disney, General Electric, and Coca-Cola, along with consumer group representatives, regulators, academics, and attorneys from private law firms. The hearings culminated in a two volume report on the state of consumer protection and competition policy.
In announcing the 2018 hearings, FTC Chair Joe Simons noted that “the FTC has always been committed to self-examination and critical thinking, to ensure that our enforcement and policy efforts keep pace with changes in the economy.” Simons served as Director of the Bureau of Competition immediately after Pitofsky’s tenure as Chair under then-Chair Tim Muris – and alluded to Pitofsky, Muris and former Chair Kovacic in his statement announcing the hearings. Simons’ statement also expressed his view that “[t]his project reflects the spirit, style, and, most importantly, broad scope of that effort,” and characterized the efforts as an “all-agency” project that will entail significant efforts from the Bureaus of Consumer Protection, Competition, and Economics, the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of International Affairs, as well as the Office of Policy Planning.