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FTC Chair Khan outlines antitrust enforcement, consumer protection vision

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner candidate Lina Khan testifies at a Senate Trade, Science and Transportation Commission confirmation hearing on April 21, 2021 at Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

Sole Robe | AFP | Getty Images

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Lina Khan, dated Wednesday, set out her policy priorities and vision in a recently published memo to staff.

This is an early overview of her goals for the agency, overseen by five commissioners who vote for enforcement measures and policy statements. The agency, together with the Department of Justice Antitrust, enforces antitrust laws in an effort to protect consumers from unfair business practices and privacy breaches.

Kahn outlined five principles of her plan:

  1. “A holistic approach to identifying harm.” In addition to consumers, Kahn said authorities should admit that antitrust and consumer protection breaches could harm workers and independent businesses. The popular antitrust framework has focused on harm to consumers, often seen as rising or falling in price, in order to determine violations of the law. However, in Academic Writing, Kahn discusses a broader approach that can better assess the harm of digital platforms, which often charge consumers free or low rates in exchange for rapid growth.
  2. Focus on “targeting the root cause, not the one-off effect.” Kahn said staff should see how certain business models and conflicts of interest can help companies violate the law.
  3. Integrate more “analytical tools and skill sets” For a more empirical assessment of business practices.
  4. Be “positive” and act swiftly to mitigate harm. Kahn said this also included paying special attention to “next-generation technologies, innovations and early industries across sectors.”
  5. Democratization of FTC By making sure that it is “in harmony with the real problems Americans face in their daily lives.”

Kahn then presented three specific policy priorities based on these goals.

  1. Responding to inter-industry integration By revising corporate merger guidelines and blocking transactions where their faces are illegal and overwhelming the resources of fees. Agencies have seen an influx of transactions that have begun to instruct some companies to merge at their own risk, even if the transaction reviews have not been completed.
  2. Pursue “dominant intermediaries and extraction business models”. “A business model that centralizes management and profits while outsourcing risks, responsibilities and costs is also particularly scrutinized, given that deep asymmetric relationships between management companies and subordinate entities can be abused. You have to do it. “
  3. Evaluate how contracts can set up unfair competition methods and deceptive practices. Kahn mentioned in his memo the non-compete obligations and repair restrictions.

Kahn did not consider the agency’s consumer protection and competition departments to be completely separate, and encouraged staff to “apply an integrated approach instead.” She also said agencies should expand their “local footprint” to allow some members of their staff to live in areas where their work affects them and allow them to hire more diverse talents. rice field. She added that the FTC should hire more technicians and professionals from different disciplines to enhance its work.

Khan’s tenure at the FTC is characterized by the enthusiasm of progressives who see her as a fresh voice to institutions that have been criticized for their stumbling block, especially to the tech industry.

Kahn was one of the leading voices in more aggressive antitrust enforcement and triggered a move in this area in the 2017 Yale Law Journal article, Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox. This article, written while Kahn was still a law student, wrote that a popular antitrust framework focused on consumer welfare was not enough to evaluate a dominant tech company like Amazon. Claimed to be.

However, her time in power is also characterized by fierce opposition from two Republicans on the Commission. At the commission’s new meeting, commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips and Kristen Wilson criticized how public comments were made until the end of the voting session, with certain votes ahead of public opinion. He expressed his feelings of being in a hurry.

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See: Andy Jassy is set to inherit Amazon’s antitrust scrutiny, regulatory risk

FTC Chair Khan outlines antitrust enforcement, consumer protection vision

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