Business & Lobbying

Business lobby targets FTC enforcement measures in $2T bill

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Business lobbying groups are pushing senators to strip measures that would grant new enforcement powers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) out of Democrats’ $2 trillion climate and social spending bill.

They’re targeting provisions in the Build Back Better Act that would provide additional funding to the FTC to investigate data protection and antitrust issues and give the FTC the authority to levy new civil penalties against companies that engage in unfair or deceptive trade practices.

Those measures are backed by pro-consumer and privacy groups that say they would deter businesses from using exploitative data practices by empowering the FTC to fine first-time violators that are currently only given a warning in most cases.

Business groups argued in a letter to lawmakers that the new enforcement mechanisms would make the FTC “the lawmaker, prosecutor, judge, and jury all at once” and that the threat of fines for violations that are not clearly defined would have a chilling effect on innovation.

“This would constitute a major policy shift in FTC enforcement authority that would unfairly erode due process and would impose significant new costs on companies acting in good faith when serving consumers,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with more than 80 other business groups, wrote in a letter to senators Wednesday.

The groups also argued that the FTC provisions cannot be included in the reconciliation under the Byrd Rule, making the case that the impact of their policy changes outweigh their effect on the federal budget. Senate Republicans have been making a similar argument in an attempt to strip out other measures opposed by the pharmaceutical industry and fossil fuel companies.

The National Retail Federation and the National Restaurant Association joined the Senate letter, along with business groups in key states such as West Virginia, Montana and Arizona. 

Business groups are targeting Democratic allies who have expressed doubts about measures in the reconciliation package. The Chamber and its West Virginia counterpart launched an ad campaign Thursday urging Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to reject the bill. 

The Chamber launched a separate six-figure ad campaign Thursday attacking the FTC’s recent efforts to increase competition under FTC Chair Lina Khan, a fierce critic of tech giants and other powerful corporations. The ads will run in Washington, D.C., and 10 states home to lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Commerce Committee. 

Tags Build Back Better Business FTC Joe Manchin Lina Khan Lobbying National Restaurant Association National Retail Federation U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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