On September 14, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission authorized new compulsory process resolutions in eight key enforcement areas: (1) Acts or Practices Affecting United States Armed Forces Members and Veterans; (2) Acts or Practices Affecting Children; (3) Bias in Algorithms and Biometrics; (4) Deceptive and Manipulative Conduct on the Internet; (5) Repair Restrictions; (6) Abuse of Intellectual Property; (7) Common Directors and Officers and Common Ownership; and (8) Monopolization Offenses.
Based on a joint recommendation from the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection and Bureau of Competition, the Commission approved the resolutions in a 3-2 vote. The FTC Act authorizes the Commission to use “compulsory process” in its investigations, requiring the subject of the investigation to produce information (in the form of documents or testimony) requested by the FTC. Such requests are enforceable by courts, and the FTC has routinely adopted compulsory process resolutions on a wide range of topics. Compulsory process resolutions allow the FTC to take swifter action against companies engaging in any conduct implicated by the resolutions, streamline its investigations and better utilize its limited resources. The new resolutions will allow the FTC to more expeditiously investigate the following:
- harmful business practices directed at service members and veterans;
- harmful business practices directed at children under the age of 18 years old;
- allegations of bias in algorithms and biometrics;
- deceptive and manipulative conduct on the Internet (e.g. this resolution enables the FTC to investigate and bring cases in a variety of areas, including day trading services, tech support scams, violations of the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, deceptive marketing of goods and services online, and the manipulation of user interfaces on websites and mobile apps);
- restrictions on repair and builds implemented by manufacturers and sellers to restrict competition for repair services;
- abuses of intellectual property rights (a source of anticompetitive and deceptive conduct);
- competitive concerns raised by interlocking directorates common ownership stakes in competing companies; and
- monopolistic practices or market power abuses by dominant firms that are precluding businesses and entrepreneurs from being able to compete, particularly in digital markets.