In November, the FTC solicited public comment on a draft strategic plan for 2022-2026. As we blog about here and discuss in comments submitted to the FTC (only 21 were submitted), a key change from the previous strategic plan is the removal from the FTC’s mission statement of “do not cause harm to legitimate business activities. The phrase “overburdened”—a change that was just adopted by a majority of the committee in its final strategic plan for 2022-2026.
Here’s the mission statement in the fiscal year 2018-2022 plan, which typically tracks the wording the FTC has used over the decades:
- Protect consumers and competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive and unfair business practices through enforcement, advocacy and education Does not overburden legitimate business activities (emphasis added).
Here’s the FTC’s 2022-2026 mission statement just finalized:
- Protect the public from deceptive or unfair business practices and unfair competition through law enforcement, advocacy, research and education.
As we have stated in our previous posts and comments, we believe that omitting the phrase “do not unduly burden legitimate business activities” sends a disturbing message to the public about the purpose and intent of the FTC. Now the FTC has said (in the final plan) “[s]Senior staff met to discuss the public comments received and made changes to the draft plan in response” – thus confirming that the deletion of the phrase was deliberate and not just an oversight.
In fact, some of the Commission’s recent actions have sent an equally troubling message.For example, as we’ve discussed here, the FTC’s ANPR on “Commercial Surveillance” spells out the benefits of privacy regulation in great detail, but rarely mentions the effects of such regulation on consumers, competition and legitimate business activity.
Here’s a quick reminder of why the phrase and the principles it embodies are so important: It’s been communicated over the years that the FTC will adjust its charges, injunctions, and remedies as it enforces the law and creates regulations Unlawful conduct and will take care to maintain the legitimate business functions of providing products and services to consumers and maintaining our dynamic and competitive economy.In other words, the FTC has recognized legitimate business activity benefit consumers and competition, and has been publicly committed to protecting it.
Furthermore, as we have detailed in previous posts and comments, maintaining the concept of legitimate business activity is part of many laws and policies that have long governed the agency’s powers and processes – including unfair, deceptive, substantiated, “encircling” Precedents for blocking” and unfair competition methods.
The FTC’s mission—preventing fraudulent, unfair, and anticompetitive behavior—is critical to maintaining a prosperous economy that serves and protects the American public.save legitimate business activity Consumers in this country rely on it every day.