Pallone Assails Republican Efforts to Gut the FTC
Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) submitted the following remarks for the record at a Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Markup on H.R. ___, the “FTC Process and Transparency Reform Act of 2016;” H.R. 5111, the “Consumer Review Fairness Act;” H.R. 5092, the “Reinforcing American Made Products Act;” and H.R. 5104, the “Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.”
Today the Subcommittee begins marking up four bills, but in reality we are making up 11 Republican bills. Eight bad FTC process bills were combined into one bad bill. I’m disappointed that of those 11 bills not one was authored by a Democratic member. That’s simply unacceptable when there were good pieces of legislation that could have been added to this markup today.
Instead of working together, we are faced today with the majority’s systematic attempt to dismantle the FTC in order to prevent it from carrying out its mission of protecting consumers. The GOP’s process bill, continues the majority’s unique ability to speak out of both sides of its mouth at the same time.
As the majority praises FTC oversight—including a recent letter to FCC Chairman Wheeler praising the Trade Commission’s enforcement on privacy—this bill is attempting to limit the FTC’s enforcement abilities. The majority discourages the FTC from issuing official guidance or guidance through consent decrees, and prevents the FTC from having rulemaking authority. They then bash the FTC for not giving industry an understanding on how to comply with the law. You can’t have it both ways.
Let’s be clear, the Republican process bill before us today would gut the FTC of even its limited authorities. Among its deficiencies, this bill would encourage stall tactics by bad actors, burden staff with unconstructive tasks, and effectively obstruct important information exchanges between Congress and the FTC. This initiative also would limit the FTC’s ability to assist other federal agencies or other countries’ governments in their efforts to help consumers. It would also undermine the FTC’s ability to be flexible and nimble in addressing emerging problems. After our legislative hearing, it should have been clear to everyone that this bill—or the eight bills at the time—should never be marked up.
Mr. Chairman, I am disappointed. We should be focusing on bills that have bipartisan support and can be signed into law, not those that are election-year tactics that may not make it to the House floor, let alone make it through the Senate.
Today we are also considering H.R. 5111, the Consumer Review Fairness Act, a bill that would protect the free speech of online reviewers. I support this bill. Companies should not be including non-disparagement clauses in their terms-of-service agreements, typically hidden among fine print, that impose steep fines on consumers that post a negative review.
I also support H.R. 5104, the Better Online Tickets Act that prohibits bots, sophisticated ticket-buying software that can buy up hundreds of tickets in a matter of minutes or even seconds, long before a consumer even gets around to looking at the ticket selling website. However, as we heard in testimony, bots are only a small part of the ticketing challenges facing consumers. That is why I supported having Mr. Pascrell’s Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing, H.R. 5245, the BOSS Act, considered today that seeks to address a number of transparency issues.
Regarding H.R. 5092, the Reinforcing American Made Products Act, I am sympathetic to the calls for a national standard for what is “Made in the U.S.A.” I am hopeful that through this markup, we can help ensure that the State of California and its citizens can continue to enforce the national standard as they currently enforce California’s standard.
I urge all of the members to reject the so-called process reform bill. This bill is not harmless or innocuous; instead it would make fundamental negative changes to how the FTC operates. Let’s work together for consumers.