FTC votes to expand antitrust enforcement powers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday voted to expand the regulatory agency’s enforcement powers, a signal of Democratic commissioners’ willingness to crack down on alleged anti-competitive behavior.

The Democratic-controlled commission voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal a 2015 policy statement that blocked the regulatory agency from challenging “unfair methods of competition” that don’t violate existing antitrust laws. The update comes at a time when federal and state regulators are sinking their teeth into investigations of the market power of tech giants.

“In practice, the 2015 statement has doubled down on the agency’s long standing failure to investigate and pursue unfair methods of competition,” Chair Lina Khan said at the meeting, the first under her charge.

The guidance had “only hindered the agency’s enforcement efforts,” she said.

Fellow Democrats on the commission, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Slaughter, voted with Khan in repealing the Obama-era policy statement, while Republican commissioners Christine Wilson and Noah Phillips opposed the measure.