Yesterday the Senate confirmed the nomination of a new FTC Commissioner, Maureen K. Ohlhausen, as well as the re-nomination of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. The following statement can be attributed to Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom:
We commend the Senate for finally filling the Republican seat on the Federal Trade Commission that has sat empty for nearly six months. Having taught, practiced and advised the FTC on privacy and consumer protection law, Commissioner Ohlhausen has exactly the kind of legal expertise the Commission needs to ensure the agency fulfill its statutory responsibilities, but does not exceed its authority.
But this vote should have happened months ago. For agencies like the FTC to function as independent, expert agencies, they need a full, bi-partisan slate of experts to oversee their operations. It is particularly unfortunate that Ohlhausen's confirmation came just a week after the FTC issued a major report recommending new regulations to protect consumer privacy. Commissioner Rosch, the lone Republican on the Commission since October, issued a scathing dissent, warning that the Report "would install 'Big Brother” as the watchdog over [information collection] not only in the online world but in the offline world." Given the concerns Ohlhausen has expressed about FTC overreach, it seems likely she too would have strongly dissented from the FTC's expansive use of its unfairness authority.
Such a voice of restraint has been completely absent on competition, where Commissioner Rosch has joined Chairman Leibowitz in going far beyond traditional antitrust laws to regulate competitive practices they consider "unfair." Before her nomination, Ohlhausen explained the dangers of this approach.
To ensure proper oversight of Internet regulation, the Senate should vote immediately on the nomination of Ajit Pai to the Federal Communications Commission, which has languished since October.
Szoka is available for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his testimony yesterday before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Szoka explained his concerns about the FTC Privacy Report, and the need for the FTC to clarify its unfairness authority. See also TechFreedom Senior Adjunct Fellow Geoffrey Manne "The FTC's Misguided Rationale for the Use of Section 5 in Sherman Act Cases."