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Federal Trade Commission Chair Joseph Simons Talks Competition, Seeks Modern Privacy and Consumer Protection Statue

Adrienne Patton

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Photo of Joseph Simons at CES 2020

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons on Tuesday talked up the role of competition, and his agency’s role in enforcing it, at a CES 2020 Event with the Consumer Technology Association in Las Vegas.

In a question and answer session with CTA CEO Gary Shapiro, Simons stressed the FTC’s dual focus on competition and consumer protection. Simons said that antitrust laws foster competition, which is crucial to economic growth and better products at cheaper prices.

Simons expressed his concern that the FTC has to enforce consumer protection and fair competition law according to the more than 100-year-old law, the Clayton Act. It was passed in 1914.

The FTC needs a modern statute that works either on the federal or state level, he said. Such modern legislation would enforce privacy in a way that does not hinder new players and start-ups.

According to Simons, the best practice is to encourage published privacy policies. If a company breaches their policy, then the FTC would begin enforcement action.

Simons stressed that the FTC does not go after companies that are bigger and successful: Rather, it wants companies to compete.

On the world stage, he judged Europe as having tighter privacy laws than the United States. This has posed an issue for U.S. companies that did not have the means to conform to European standards.

On the other end of the spectrum, Simons suggested privacy is more “theoretical” in China.

Simons expressed satisfaction in the outcome of two big recent settlements by the agency involving Facebook and Google’s YouTube. The FTC had to enforce stipulations that extended beyond the law, and if Facebook and YouTube continue past practices, the consequences will be severe, he said.

Nearing the end of the session, Shapiro asked Simons what law he would like to change. Simons said he wanted Congress to clarify Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. There is a lot of confusion surrounding whether the FTC can give monetary relief to the consumer, as they have previously done.

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