Ad Groups' Lobbying Helps Stop Bill From Broadening FTC Powers

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The Assocation of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau and others scored a big victory in preventing a financial services bill from granting broad new powers to the Federal Trade Commission.
That came after Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), speaking for the Senate conferees on the bill, this week, said that the issues would need to be resolved outside of the financial services bill, according to an ANA update on its Web site.
The House version of the bill contained the beefed-up powers for the Federal Trade Commission, which chairman Jon Leibowitz said the commission would use judiciously. That would have included new rulemaking authority, fining authority, and the ability to go after aiding and abetting. The Senate version didn't and now the final version doesn't either, according to the Center for Digital Democracy's Jeff Chester, who said the conference process wrapped up Friday morning with a version of the bill that does not contain the provisions.
[The] online ad lobby--working with Chamber of Commerce--scored a major victory by forcing Conference committee to drop provisions strengthening FTC," said Center For Digital Democracy's Jeff Chester. "Marketers and advertisers are celebrating their win -- which keeps the FTC on a weakened political leash. While consumer protection is significantly expanded because of the CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] and new financial rules, the FTC is to remain largely hamstrung."
Advertisers argue that the FTC would get new powers to write industry-wide rules with "virtually no procedural safeguards," and to impose "multi-million dollar civil penalties independent of the Justice Department. Since the FTC has jurisdiction over most of the economy, these changes could hurt jobs and the sale of products throughout the country," said ANA in a letter to Dodd last month.
Leibowitz said two weeks ago that the FTC had no planned rulemakings teed up.
But ad lobbies put on a full court press. In addition to ANA's letter to Dodd, it sent another letter along with 46 other organizations (including the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Digital Marketing Association) to every conferee on the bill pushing for the Senate bill because of the absence of the FTC provisions.
Chester had been hoping the empowered FTC would be better able to protect online privacy, but points out that at least he will now have to places to take complaint: the FTC and CFPB. He also said he would try to get the issue addressed in the planned rewrite of the Telecommunications Act launched by top House and Senate Democrats to update it in light of the rise of broadband.
A series of meetings on the Hill about updating telecom legislation began Friday with a look at the FCC's current authority, which was called into question by the BitTorrent decision.

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