Regulation

FTC Chairman Eyes Tougher Tech Enforcement

The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said he might consider getting tougher on antitrust enforcement, which would have an impact on high-profile big tech companies such as Google and Facebook.

Joseph Simons was sworn in as FTC chairman in May, but this isn’t his first experience with the agency. He was previously director of the Bureau of Competition between 2001 and 2003, and held positions in the 1980s as associate director for mergers and the assistant director for evaluation. At a conference organized by the FTC, Simon said that during those previous stints, there had been a more hands-off approach to antitrust enforcement.

“But now, at the beginning of my third stint at the commission, things have shifted. The broad antitrust consensus that has existed within the antitrust community in a relatively stable form for about 25 years is being challenged,” he said, according to Reuters. “First, some recent economic literature concludes that the U.S. economy has grown more concentrated and less competitive over the last 20 to 30 years, which happens to correlate with the timing of a change to a less enforcement-minded antitrust policy, beginning in the 1980s. These concerns merit serious attention.”

Simons noted that the FTC would also address issues surrounding antitrust, income inequality and lagging wages.

“We do this with the goal of understanding if our current enforcement policies are on the right track or on the wrong track, and if they are on the wrong track, what shall we do to improve them?” he said, adding that he was keeping “a very open mind.”

President Donald Trump has also pushed for tough enforcement of antitrust laws, and major tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and others have faced criticism from both parties for a range of issues, including the abuse of users’ privacy, data and unfair practices when competing with smaller rivals. In a congressional hearing in June, Simons acknowledged the power of these companies, but said he would not support attacking them “because they’re big and successful.”

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