The Federal Trade Commission recently announced the launch of the Technology Task Force, which has been designed to monitor, investigate, and take enforcement actions against anti-competitive conduct and industry practices in US technology markets.
This signals an increased focus by the FTC on the rapidly evolving technology sectors of the economy and a determination to ensure consumers continue to benefit from free and fair competition.
Background on the Task Force
The Task Force is composed of current officials with the FTC’s Bureau of Competition including 17 staff attorneys with unique expertise in complex product and service markets and ecosystems, and a Technology Fellow, who will provide technical assistance and expertise to support the Task Force’s investigations. The Task Force intends to begin investigations by reviewing publicly available material, such as publicized industry practices, mergers, acquisitions, deals and collaborations. Where the concerns are raised that a company is engaging in anti-competitive conduct, such as the acquisition by large tech companies of small firms that may become competition in the future, the investigation may be escalated to include requests for additional information from consumers, competitors, and industry experts. Specific markets to be evaluated include online advertising, social networking, mobile operating systems and apps, and markets in which online platforms compete. Notably, the Task Force is expressly charged with reviewing prospective and consummated mergers in the technology sector. Such reviews will include large transactions that meet the filing requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, as well as “non-reportable” transactions. Mergers found to be anti-competitive may be subject to divestiture or licensing, regardless of whether such mergers have already been finalized.
The launch of the Technology Task Force shortly after the FTC began its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection demonstrates the FTC’s increasing efforts to quash anti-competition in technology-related sectors of the economy. Large tech companies who monopolize specifics area of the market should be preparing for this new Task Force by engaging in practices that encourage free and fair competition and eliminating any practices that may be viewed by the FTC as an abuse of market power.