Upcoming mega-hearings will discuss myriad topics affecting enforcement policies and priorities

Gift of Gab

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission), responding to what it calls “broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies, [and] international developments,” is planning a series of public hearings to address how these changes might impact the business of enforcement law. The hearings, consisting of 15 to 20 public sessions, will kick off in September 2018.

Calling the hearings an occasion for “serious reflection and evaluation,” the Commission assembled an exhaustive list of items for public comment, ranging from the development of antitrust and consumer protection law and enforcement to the competitive effects of mergers and acquisitions to the effects of algorithms, artificial intelligence and analytics on consumer welfare.

The Takeaway

This meeting is the first of its kind since 1995’s “Global Competition and Innovation Hearings,” to which the current series of hearings harkens back in “form and structure.” Those hearings – also known as the “Pitofsky Hearings,” after then-FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky – produced two major reports on competition policy and consumer protection in the “new high-tech, global marketplace.” Both are worth a read for anyone interested in how the Commission forecast the unprecedented onrush of technological change that was about to follow (in one vision of the future, the report states that consumers may “not view the Internet as a source of entertainment or fun, but rather as a tool to accomplish mundane tasks more conveniently and cheaply than they might through conventional means”).

How will the FTC fare this time around? It’s partly up to you and other interested parties who want to contribute to the conversation. The Commission is accepting public comment on the announced topics here through Aug. 20, 2018. As individual sessions approach, the Commission will issue instructions on how to submit comments on the pertinent topic.