The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) protects consumers and ensures that the nation’s markets function competitively. The FTC focuses on competition, consumer protection, and fintech. The introduction of new leadership for the agency has prompted many to ask what changes we can expect from the FTC in 2022.
In May 2020, Joseph Simons stepped down from the role of Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission after completing his six-year term. President Donald Trump appointed Rebecca Slaughter to be Acting Chair in April 2020, and although it is not yet confirmed, she is likely to occupy this position for an extended period.
What does this mean for the FTC’s priorities and identity in 2022? The primary focus of the FTC under new leadership is expected to remain on promoting competition and consumer protection, but some key areas may take precedence over others. For example, we can expect increased scrutiny toward tech giants such as Google and Facebook in antitrust enforcement procedures because they dominate several markets including search engines, online advertising, digital media platforms, e-commerce websites, etc.. Additionally, continued progress towards digital privacy laws will help protect consumers online and increase transparency through greater disclosure requirements. Moreover, regulatory actions in rapidly evolving sectors such as ride-sharing services will likely be a priority of the agency next year due to their disruptive nature and impact upon incumbents like Uber and Lyft.
The transition between different administrations may cause shifts in direction regarding how closely or loosely to pursue regulations affecting particular industries or groups within them; however what remains certain under new leadership is that at its core the mission statement has not changed – ‘to promote consumer protection & market competition’ – will remain just that – unchanged regardless who leads it into 2022.
Overview of FTC’s Priorities for 2022
As the FTC transitions to a new leadership, it is natural to expect changes in priorities as they look to set their course for 2022. In this article, we will look at the FTC’s priorities for the upcoming year and how their approach may be different from years past.
We will discuss consumer protection and privacy, antitrust and competition law, data security, and more.
Protecting Consumers’ Privacy and Data Security
The FTC has a long history of enforcing laws that protect consumers’ privacy and data security. With the changing landscape of technology, the FTC will focus on emerging issues such as AI, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) software and connected devices. The agency will prioritize forming rules designed to protect consumers’ privacy and data security while promoting innovation in these areas.
The Federal Trade Commission Act gives the agency authority to bring enforcement actions against deceptive or unfair practices related to consumer data protection. In recent years, the FTC has focused on crackdowns against companies that violated laws related to personal data protection. The Commission also took action against companies for not properly disclosing how users’ personal information was collected, shared and stored. Going forward, we can expect more enforcement actions from the FTC in this line of work as the Commission takes a more active role in protecting consumers’ privacy and data security.
In addition to enforcement activity, the Commission is considering two major regulatory initiatives. First, it is revisiting its 2018 settlement with Facebook from which it wants to impose stricter terms to protect users’ privacy. And second, it is seeking public comment on potential new rules or guidance surrounding data protection measures for edge providers — those companies that provide internet services directly to consumers without being an Intermediary provider such as an internet service provider (ISP). Looking ahead into 2022, we can expect further announcements from the FTC regarding their intention with these proposed regulations or guidelines.
Combating Unfair, Deceptive, and Abusive Acts and Practices
Under the Federal Trade Commission or FTC Act, the FTC is committed to taking effective action against “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce”. In June 2020, the Commission issued its policy statement to guide enforcement efforts that support consumer protection and competition. Under such policy statement, the Commission is expected to prioritize antitrust enforcement initiatives that combine consumer protection and competition concerns with specific focus on industries vital for a modern economy (such as health care, higher education, technology and financial services).
For individual cases, the FTC intends to prioritize exploits of vulnerable individuals and uses of deceptive trade practices (e.g., price-fixing cartels, patent settlements that restrain competition). The FTC also has its eye on anticompetitive merger activities by large firms. Finally, for structural changes and legislative processes, it will be pushing for more robust merger control notification thresholds, comprehensive investigations into market structures that might reduce economic opportunities at the local level and structured remedies aimed at preventing firms from engaging in unfair market practices (e.g., prohibiting landlords from imposing unfair rental terms).
The FTC also plans to continue its efforts against Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAPs) under Section 5 of the FTC Act by targeting fraudulent business marketing practices and deceptive online activities such as online data collection schemes and misleading health-care related products marketed over the internet. Additionally, it will focus on unfair debt collection practices including false representations about debtors’ rights as protected under relevant statutes; cybersquatting; pyramid schemes; global telemarketing fraud; multichannel marketing fraud; fraudulent advertising controversies related to gender labeling; failure to honor warranties and refunds; false claims about product efficacy; illegitimate medical device approvals by foreign countries; false promises by debt-relief firms preying upon both students and households deeply in debt. The upshot is that this enforcement effort may encompass most unlawful conduct impacting consumers involving information beyond simple price information such as warranties disclosures (e.g., extended warranties) complex contracts online services agreements etc.
What to Expect: FTC’s 2022 Priorities & Identity Under New Leadership
Under new leadership, the Federal Trade Commission’s 2022 Priorities and identity is focused on promoting competition in all parts of the economy and protecting consumers from anticompetitive conduct. The FTC will continue to stay vigilant for cases of deceptive or unfair conduct in labor, transportation, health services, data privacy, health insurance markets, technology companies and beyond.
The Commission will prioritize aggressive enforcement through targeted investigations and sweeping administrative rules that reduce the need for formal investigations. In addition, the FTC pledged to use various enforcement tools to protect consumers from competition-reducing conduct including “administrative adjudication proceedings; civil investigative demands; injunction suits; rulemaking proceedings related to competition issues; market studies; guidance documents; consent decrees” and more.
Specifically the FTC has identified four priority outcomes it will focus on achieving:
- Strengthening merger review process.
- Eliminating barriers-to-entry that limit innovation in emerging markets or new technologies.
- Monitoring behavior concerning digital services platforms or products created by data analytics firms that use complex algorithms that may affect competition unfairly or create a lack of transparency for consumers.
- Protecting vulnerable populations or communities from exploitation via unfair business practices.
Competition is essential for businesses seeking to produce better products at lower prices – ultimately benefiting consumers regardless of their ability or socioeconomic status. The FTC is committed to promoting market conditions that foster healthy competition while protecting vulnerable populations from taking advantage of these conditions. Enforcing these policies are essential for economic growth within the United States.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s 2022 priorities reflect the agency’s commitment to support innovation, competition, and consumer protection in the face of fast-changing technology and markets. The FTC will focus its time and resources on protecting American consumers and entrepreneurs from anticompetitive practices, deceptive marketing, cyber security threats, fraudulent healthcare treatments and other deceptions.
The FTC will work with state partners to investigate mergers heightening competitive barriers or reducing consumer choice. It will also use data analytics to uncover new violations of the law. The agency will pursue investigations into unfair or deceptive trade practices to promote a competitive marketplace for technology companies of all sizes and across industries.
Additionally, the FTC emphasizes identity fraud protection through initiatives such as Project Protect Your Identity and tougher penalties for violations of data privacy laws that affect consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII). Consumers will also be put at centerstage when it comes to online privacy regulation; expect initiatives centered on providing stronger digital safeguards so that companies act responsibly concerning personal data they collect from individuals.
Finally, to help protect vulnerable communities from financial scams and abuses targeting seniors, consumers at risk of being manipulated by telemarketers, or people subject to discrimination over their gender identity or sexual orientation; the FTC has emphasized identifying these frauds early on and prosecuting them forcefully. As a result, this year has seen several actions against entities accused of violating consumer protection laws.
Impact of New Leadership on FTC’s Priorities
The appointment of the new leadership of the Federal Trade Commission brings with it the possibility of the organisation adjusting its priorities for 2022.
With the new leadership, the FTC may focus more on certain areas such as consumer privacy and advertising.
This article will look at the potential impact of the new leadership on the FTC’s priorities and objectives for the next year.
Appointment of New Commissioners
The appointment of three new commissioners in 2021 to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will impact the FTC’s 2022 priorities. The commissioners — Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Slaughter and Christine Wilson — represent a range of perspectives on competition, consumer protection and innovation policy that are expected to influence the FTC’s 2021 agenda.
The new commissioners will shape the agency’s direction in several key areas. For example, they are likely to prioritize enforcement actions against anticompetitive behavior, vigilantly monitor innovations and algorithms proposed by companies, set additional guidelines for mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, strongly enforce privacy and data security laws, pay close attention to abusive marketing practices and deceptive advertising tactics, push forward with its identity theft prevention initiatives, and much more.
Furthermore, the new Commissioners will influence both short-term decision making at the Commission and long-term policy formulation. For example, Commissioner Chopra is particularly focused on issues around payments industry concentration; Commissioner Slaughter advocates for strengthened privacy initiatives; and Commissioner Wilson has a keen interest in antitrust merger analysis. All three commissioners have also committed to updating regulatory regimes to account for digital markets.
Through this strong emphasis on prioritizing innovation coupled with protections against anticompetitive practices and strong consumer safeguards against deceptive practices, FTC’s strategy under new leadership should expand its oversight beyond traditional markets into newer digital ones.
Focus on Consumer Protection
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the United States’ primary watchdog over consumer protection and antitrust issues. The agency is mandated to protect citizens and businesses against deceptive, predatory, and deceptive market practices. With the nomination of Rohit Chopra as the next chair of the FTC, consumers can expect new directions in terms of priorities.
Under its new leadership, the FTC will continue to focus on consumer protection from a variety of angles. For example, we can expect an emphasis on data privacy and security, fair debt collection practices, digital advertising abuse by tech companies, anti-monopoly enforcement actions against dominant firms with market power, strengthening consent decrees for corporate misconduct, and stricter penalties for bad actors such as scam artists who target vulnerable consumers like seniors. The FTC is also expected to take an increased interest in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology used online or in mobile transactions that may have not been scrutinized before but now require closer observation due to their impact on consumers’ well-being.
We can also anticipate initiatives under Chopra’s leadership to improve governance at major organizations such as airlines and credit card companies by drawing on emerging technologies that offer more transparency into pricing structures. In addition to emphasizing stronger existing consumer laws such as those enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), there may be an added focus on Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) provisions of unfair acts or practices harming competition in a given sector or market space including more aggressive enforcement against organizations found acting upon exclusive dealing arrangements potentially violating Section 5 of the Act.
The 2022 fiscal year marks a significant point in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) history with a new administration and agency leadership. While its priorities are still being formulated, the FTC’s past actions can guide what to expect. In particular, topics such as privacy and data security, deception in advertising and marketing, competition-related issues, and platform regulation will likely remain on the FTC’s agenda. Additionally, given its growing focus on unfair or deceptive practices related to digital platforms and technology products, it is likely that the FTC will take an increasingly active role in enforcing relevant laws and regulations.
The FTC’s current focus on consumer protection has resulted in the agency taking a stronger stance against tech giants than ever, with billions of dollars in fines levied against various companies for violating antitrust laws. While this trend shows no sign of stopping under new leadership, it remains to be seen whether these senior leaders at the agency intend to shift the focus of their enforcement efforts away from Silicon Valley or maintain their aggressive stance. As new initiatives are launched and shifts in direction become evident over time, stakeholders need to stay informed about changes in policy so that they may plan accordingly for 2022 and beyond.