31 July | 12 AM

First Apple, then Amazon: Where is the FTC Heading on Digital Consumer Protection?

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright will be the keynote speaker at TechFreedom and ICLE’s latest installment in their year-long project “FTC: Technology and Reform,” launched in December. Join us on Thursday, July 31 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company for a lunch and panel discussion on the important questions surrounding the FTC’s latest consumer protection enforcement actions. RSVP here.

Background

The FTC recently issued a complaint and consent order against Apple, alleging its in-app purchasing design doesn’t meet the Commission’s standards of fairness. The action and resulting settlement drew a forceful dissent from Commissioner Wright, and sparked a discussion among the Commissioners about balancing economic harms and benefits in Section 5 unfairness jurisprudence. More recently, the FTC brought a similar action against Amazon, now pending in federal district court.

These cases raise important questions about the FTC’s consumer protection enforcement practices, especially its use of economics. How does the Commission weigh the costs and benefits of its enforcement decisions? How does the agency employ economic analysis in digital consumer protection cases generally? What can the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection learn from the Bureau of Competition’s experience using economics in antitrust cases?

As we approach the hundred-year anniversary of the FTC’s formation, the proliferation of advanced consumer technology will continue to pose challenges for regulators. How should the agency approach unfairness issues in the digital age? What trade-offs are involved in second-guessing user-interface design and user-experience decisions? To what extent can and should the agency impose its own technical and design preferences on the firms it regulates?