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adage | Wednesday February 28, 2018
Court Reverses AT&T Order Seen Harming Consumer Protection
A U.S. appeals court restored regulators' role in consumer-protection cases against telecommunications companies like AT&T. The court said the Federal Trade Commission can regulate non-telephone activities by the communications giant, which also owns DirecTV. The case drew dire warnings from the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission that without a reversal of a 2016 ruling, some telecommunications companies would fall into a regulatory gap where specific business practices could evade oversight, inhibiting consumer-protection cases. AT&T had argued that its activities fall under the supervision of the FCC under an exemption for common carriers like phone companies. The FTC's view is that it has broader powers than the FCC to carry out consumer protection enforcement in the area of broadband, including the authority to obtain money back for customers. The agency was worried about the wider implications of the 2016 ruling, which could have provided a road map for companies to avoid FTC enforcement. "The phrase 'common carriers subject to the acts to regulate commerce' thus provides immunity from FTC regulation only to the...Read more