FTC Focuses Enforcement Efforts on Health Care, Technology and Energy Sectors

By on November 25, 2013

On November 15, 2013, Chairwoman Edith Ramirez testified on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) before the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform on the topic of antitrust oversight and enforcement.  Ramirez explained that the FTC “focuses its enforcement efforts on sectors that most directly affect consumers, such as health care, technology and energy.”

The FTC has identified health care provider consolidation as a significant component of increasing health care costs, and overseeing provider combinations has remained a key priority for the agency.  The FTC has also undertaken efforts to promote competition between manufacturers of generic and brand-name drugs.  In addition to litigating “pay-for-delay” settlements, the Commission has filed amicus briefs to advocate against other practices it considers anticompetitive, such as “product hopping,” the practice of altering the formula of a brand-name drug in a minor, non-therapeutic way in order to preserve monopoly power in the face of generic competition.

In the technology arena, the FTC has targeted the problem of patent hold-up.  The Commission has pursued enforcement actions aimed at preventing holders of standard essential patents from rescinding agreements to license the patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms.  The FTC is also actively looking into the potential harms and efficiencies of “patent assertion entities,” which are companies “with a business model focused primarily on purchasing patents and then attempting to generate revenue by asserting the intellectual property against persons who are already practicing the patented technology.”

The Chairwoman noted that the Commission utilizes “all the powers at its disposal” to police competition in the energy sector, and it considers merger review “essential to preserving competition in these markets.”  The agency also monitors gasoline and diesel fuel prices on a daily basis for unusual pricing activity, which could be a sign of anticompetitive conduct.

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