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FTC Continues to Implement Reform Agenda; Aims to Reduce Burdens of and Improve Transparency in Commission Investigations

Posted: July 20, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC or the Commission) announced a wave of reforms this week in line with Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen’s mission to “aggressively” implement a Trump administration directive aimed at eliminating wasteful, unnecessary regulations and processes.

By way of background, FTC issued a press release in April, discussed here, announcing the creation of “[n]ew groups within the Bureau of Competition and the Bureau of Consumer Protection” tasked with identifying best practices to (1) streamline information requests “to eliminate unnecessary costs to companies and individuals who receive them;” and (2) improve transparency in investigations; and (3) “collect and review ideas on process streamlining and operational efficiency opportunities from across the [Commission].”

The reforms announced by the Commission this week focus on compliance with Civil Investigation Demands (CIDs) in consumer protection cases. Although the full extent of the reforms is not yet known, the Commission did indicate that it plans to, among other things:

  • Provide plain language descriptions of the CID process and develop educational materials to help small businesses understand their responsibilities when complying with such demands;
  • Add more detailed descriptions of the scope and purpose of investigations to give companies a better understanding of the information the Commission is seeking;
  • Where appropriate, limit the relevant time periods to minimize undue burdens on companies;
  • Where appropriate, significantly reduce the length and complexity of CID instructions for providing electronically stored data; and
  • Where appropriate, increase response times for CIDs (e.g., from 21 days to 30 days for targets, and from 14 days to 21 days for third parties) to provide for improved quality and timeliness of compliance.

Additionally, FTC clarified that it will adhere to its current practice of communicating investigation statuses with businesses and individual who are the targets of those investigations at least every six months after compliance with a CID.

Finally, the Commission indicated in its press release that it “continues to consider other reforms.” We will monitor these and other FTC developments and provide more information as it becomes available.

Gregory Waterworth, a summer associate, contributed to this blog entry.