Jan 23, 2017

FTC chair contender may limit cases against companies

Republican FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen is reportedly going to be named acting chair of the agency by Donald Trump in the near future. If given the job, here's what she could do, according to remarks at a conference today:

  • Direct staff to look for "substantial harm" when investigating industry practices — which would likely limit the number of cases brought by the agency.
  • Convene a workshop to revisit on the standards used by the agency when deciding when to intervene in with agency action.

What she probably couldn't do: Pull back on the agency's recent lawsuit against Qualcomm. Ohlhausen said she believed doing so would require a majority commission vote, and the only other commissioner who will be left after Chairwoman Edith Ramirez resigns in February voted for the lawsuit. Reminder: Trump needs to appoint two Republicans and one Democrat to complete the panel and restore Republican majority.

Net neutrality: Olhausen said Congress should consider getting rid of a legal exemption that prevents the FTC from bringing action against so-called "common carriers" in light of the FCC's recent net neutrality rules. (Currently, broadband providers are squarely in the FCC's jurisdiction.)

Privacy: She also said the FTC and FCC should work together and questioned whether separate privacy regimes for broadband providers and tech companies "continue to make sense."

Neither confirm nor deny: Ohlhausen isn't confirming reports suggesting that she'll head the FTC. "I have not met with President Trump," she said. "He's been busy with a lot of things, but I've certainly been talking with the transition team."

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