In a display of holiday-appropriate collaboration, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission signed a memorandum of understanding "to further the agencies' ongoing cooperation on consumer protection matters."
The agreement is intended to formalize existing cooperation between the agencies, the FTC said in a press release, and provides an outline of how the two Commissions will coordinate their efforts, with an eye toward avoiding "duplicative, redundant or inconsistent oversight."
Each agency recognized the other's respective abilities, with the FCC acknowledging "the importance of the FTC's expertise and leadership on matters of consumer protection," and the FTC responding in kind to "the importance of the FCC's expertise and leadership with regard to consumer protection as applied to telecommunications services."
The Commissions agreed to coordinate on agency initiatives where one agency's action will have a "significant effect" on the other's authority or programs and to consult on investigations or actions that implicate the jurisdiction of the other agency. In addition, the FTC and FCC will conduct regular coordination meetings to review current marketplace practices and each other's work on matters of common interest that impact consumers and to exchange their respective learning about the evolution of communication markets.
The agencies will share relevant investigative techniques and tools, intelligence, technical and legal expertise, and best practices in response to reasonable requests for such assistance. They will also share data regarding consumer complaints, and will collaborate on consumer and industry outreach and education efforts as appropriate.
The scope of the common carrier exemption found in the Federal Trade Commission Act does not preclude the FTC from addressing non-common carrier activities engaged in by common carriers, the agencies agreed. To the extent that existing law permits both the FTC and the FCC to address the same conduct, the agencies will follow the memorandum to "ensure that their activities efficiently protect consumers and serve the public interest."
"[N]o exercise of enforcement authority by the FTC should be taken to be a limitation on authority otherwise available to the FCC, including FCC authority over activities engaged in by common carriers and by non-common carriers for and in connection with common carriers services; likewise, no exercise of enforcement authority by the FCC should be taken to be a limitation on authority otherwise available to the FTC," the agencies said.
To read the Memorandum of Understanding, click here.
Why it matters: The MOU comes after a busy year of consumer protection efforts on the part of the FCC (such as the recent $595,000 fine issued by the agency regarding a cable operator's data breach and speculation that the FTC resented the FCC appearance on its turf. With the understanding in place, businesses should recognize that they may be facing joint enforcement efforts in the future.