TF’s Geoffrey Manne to Testify on FTC Reform

Friday, Geoffrey Manne, Executive Director of the International Center for Law & Economics and a TechFreedom Senior Fellow, will testify at “The FTC at 100: Views from the Academic Experts” hearing before the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Commerce, Manufacturing & Trade Subcommittee. The second in an ongoing series, this hearing features academic experts discussing “the Commission and its resources, mission, authorities, and performance as these have evolved over the last century, as well as how they should evolve to ensure the FTC becomes a modern, efficient bureaucracy responsive to existing and emerging needs.”

“Economic analysis has long been the key to ensuring that antitrust law doesn’t backfire by banning or deterring innovative business practices that actually help consumers,” explained Manne. “The FTC has been far better grounded in economics than most other regulators. But it hasn’t consistently applied the same rigor to some of the more novel theories on which it has based several significant, recent competition cases — or to consumer protection cases in general.”

Manne’s testimony covers three key themes: the need for greater regulatory humility about the FTC’s ability to predict the competitive effects of evolving technology and business practices, the importance of economic analysis in steering FTC’s enforcement decisions, and the vital role played (or not played) by the courts in shaping what some at the agency call its “common law” approach.

“Economic analysis at the FTC isn’t just a trifle that we ought to have a little more of. It’s baked right into the FTC Act; it’s part and parcel of the FTC’s statutory mandate,” said Manne. “Some FTC Chairmen have insisted on a high degree of economic rigor, but it’s only been sustained where courts have required it. And in privacy, data security, product design, and even some merger cases, the FTC has been able to evade judicial scrutiny by settling cases out of court. This has allowed the FTC to avoid, and even undermine, meaningful economic analysis. Where the FTC makes law in a judicial vacuum, it risks harming consumers.”

Manne has written extensively on the FTC’s regulation of competition and consumer protection (see, for example, here, here and here) especially involving new technologies. With Berin Szoka and Gus Hurwitz he co-chairs the “FTC: Technology & Reform” Project, which released its inaugural report at a conference this past December.

The hearing will take place at 9:30am ET on Friday, February 26, in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. It will also be streamed live on the Committee’s website and discussed on the #FTC hashtag. Also testifying will be Howard Beales, Daniel Crane, Christopher Yoo, Robert Lande, and Paul Ohm.

See Manne’s oral remarks before the Committee.

See Manne’s written testimony before the Committee.

Manne is available for comment at media@techfreedom.org.

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