The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition has set its sights on the U.S. technology sector. On Feb. 28 it launched a task force that will monitor the industry, investigate potential anticompetitive conduct, and taking enforcement action as necessary.
In announcing the new team, FTC Chairman Joe Simons said "it makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition. Our ongoing Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century are a crucial step to deepen our understanding of these markets and potential competitive issues. The Technology Task Force is the next step in that effort.”
The new task force's 17 attorneys will be led by Patricia Galvan, currently the Deputy Assistant Director of the Mergers III Division, and Krisha Cerilli, currently Counsel to the Director.
In addition to examining industry practices and conducting law enforcement investigations, the Technology Task Force will, among other things, coordinate and consult with staff throughout the FTC on technology-related matters, including prospective merger reviews in the technology sector and reviews of consummated technology mergers.
Of course, only time will tell just how far-reaching or how effective the Technology Task Force will be. Washington Post technology policy reporter Cat Zakrzewski wrote that the announcement "sparked immediate questions about whether the regulator would scrutinize Facebook's social media empire. But experts are skeptical that the agency's new tech-focused task force will result in tough action -- such as breaking up Facebook and its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram."
The creation of the task force represents a commitment by the FTC to investigate and thoroughly understand the competitive forces at play in the tech industry, much like it has done with other industries. An initiative of this magnitude, however, is likely to impact many players in the industry -- big and small. Even if not targets of the investigation, tech companies can expect to be asked to respond to document and data requests in order for the FTC to capture a comprehensive understanding of market forces.