On August 6, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published a notice seeking public comment as to whether broad-based changes in the economy, evolving business practices, new technologies or international developments might require adjustments to competition and consumer protection law, enforcement priorities and policy. The notice, published in the Federal Register, does not specifically mention blockchain or distributed ledger technology specifically, but the broad list of topics that the FTC lists as areas in which it seeks comments could easily accommodate market developments due to the emergence of blockchain technology and related applications. 

The topics on which the FTC seeks comments include:

  • the state of antitrust and consumer protection law and enforcement;
  • competition and consumer protection issues in communication, information and media technology networks;
  • the identification and measurement of market power and entry barriers, and the evaluation of collusive, exclusionary or predatory conduct, or conduct that violates the consumer protection statutes enforced by the FTC, in markets featuring so-called “platform” businesses;
  • the intersection between privacy, big data and competition;
  • the FTC’s remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters;
  • the competitive effects of corporate acquisitions and mergers;
  • evidence and analysis of monopsony power, including but not limited to, in labor markets;
  • the role of intellectual property and competition policy in promoting innovation;
  • consumer welfare implications associated with the use of algorithmic decision tools, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics;
  • interpretation and harmonization of state and federal statutes and regulations that prohibit unfair and deceptive acts and practices; and
  • the FTC’s investigation, enforcement and remedial processes.

The FTC asks for public comment by August 20, 2018. Beginning in September 2018, the FTC will conduct a series of public hearings on these issues, which are expected to run through January 2019.