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Acting FTC Chairman Announces Internal Reforms to Streamline Agency Investigations

By: Connor Breza

July 17th, 2017

 

In her press conference Monday, Acting Chairman for the Federal Trade Commission Maureen K. Ohlhausen announced incoming reforms to the Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. The Federal Trade Commission reports that these reforms will “streamline information requests and improve transparency in Commission investigations.” Acting Chairman Ohlhausen first announced her intention to enact reforms in her April 17th press release in response to new presidential directives.

The ultimate goal of the new administration and the FTC is “eliminating unnecessary regulations and processes” in order to alleviate the significant burdens imposed by over-regulation and bureaucracy.  In April, the Acting Chairman stated, “I welcomed the President’s directive, and we’re already working hard to achieve it. The FTC will continue to pursue the right answer for consumers, but we will work hard to get there as efficiently as we can.”

 

The FTC’s report Monday highlighted the planned changes to its procedures on Civil Investigative Demands (CID’s) in consumer protection cases. The Acting Chairman elaborated that “The changes announced today will reduce unnecessary and undue burdens of FTC investigations without compromising our ability to protect American consumers.”

 

The FTC release lists several practices involving CID’s that will be reformed, stipulating the plans for: 1.) Providing plain language descriptions of the CID process and developing business education materials to help small businesses understand how to comply; 2.) Adding more detailed descriptions of the scope and purpose of investigations to give companies a better understanding of the information the agency seeks; 3.) Where appropriate, limiting the relevant time periods to minimize undue burden on companies; 4.) Where appropriate, significantly reducing the length and complexity of CID instructions for providing electronically stored data; and 5.) Where appropriate, increasing response times for CIDs (for example, often 21 days to 30 days for targets, and 14 days to 21 days for third parties) to improve the quality and timeliness of compliance by recipients.

 

The FTC stated that their goal in making these reforms to CID’s was “in part to address concerns raised by Members of Congress and the American Bar Association Antitrust Section’s Presidential Transition Report about the investigational burdens on legitimate companies.” Discovery requests of this kind can be very costly to companies and as a result, streamlining this process further improves conditions for consumers. According to Acting Chairman Ohlhausen, updated procedures will allow the FTC to “focus [its] resources where they will do the most good for the public and eliminating wasteful, legacy regulations and processes that have outlived their usefulness.” The FTC’s July 17th press release states that “the agency continues to consider other reforms”.

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