While I was in Moscow over the last few days talking about advertising law issues with lawyers from around the world, there were some recurring themes that came up. What are the similarities and differences in our legal systems and our approaches to addressing advertising issues? When countries are faced with emerging issues, should they look to other countries for best practices? What is the value in harmonizing laws between countries? And, in a global marketplace where virtually everything is online, how can marketers effectively navigate the differences?

While members of the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance were off discussing these issues in Moscow, coincidentally, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons was at a conference in New York City talking about a hearing that the FTC recently held on "The FTC's Role in a Changing World." While the FTC has not yet issued a report on the hearing (which he said will be forthcoming in the near future), he did share a few key takeaways from the hearing, including:

  • There is strong support for the US SAFE WEB Act and for making it a permanent part of the FTC Act. The Act gives the FTC powers to enhance cross-border cooperation on consumer protection investigations and fraud actions and to support cross-border data transfer mechanisms. Simons said that the Act, "confirm's the Agency's legal authority to sue foreign wrongdoers and challenge misleading practices with a nexus to the United States or American consumers." Although the Act expires at the end of next September, the FTC has asked Congress to reauthorize the Act and to make it a permanent part of the FTC's authority.
  • The FTC should "continue to exercise its international leadership, leveraging its competition and consumer protection expertise to address emerging issues." This includes, for example, sharing its research, policies, and practices with international community, including through reports and guidelines.
  • The FTC should continue to build strong relationships with its counterparts around the world, including through joint workshops and studies and more regional engagement. Simons said, "Witnesses praised the FTC's efforts to promote international convergence and encouraged the FTC to continue to build strong partnerships through direct engagement with our foreign counterparts at leadership and staff levels, both bilaterally and through multilateral organizations."
  • The FTC's hearing provided support for the FTC's role in formulating broader U.S. government policies that involve international issues within its mandate. Simons said, "The FTC's long and deep experience enables us to advocate effectively for policies that promote consumer welfare and sound economics, and to assess the impact of foreign government enforcement and policies on U.S. competition policies and interests."

We'll be watching for the FTC's report on these issues to see how FTC policies on international engagement will continue to evolve.

The US SAFE WEB Act "confirm's the Agency's legal authority to sue foreign wrongdoers and challenge misleading practices with a nexus to the United States or American consumers" -- FTC Chairman Joseph Simons