CTA to FTC: Leave Vertical Merger Guidelines Alone

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Technology companies from Amazon to Z-Wave are telling the Federal Trade Commission not to rescind its vertical merger guidelines and enforcement advisory that were adopted in 2020 under President Donald Trump.

The proposal to scrap both is scheduled for a vote at the FTC's Sept. 15 public meeting, and the Democratic majority is expected to approve their exit.

In a Sept. 13 letter to the FTC, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) said those 2020 guidelines, jointly adopted by the FTC and DOJ, which divvy up merger antitrust reviews, were produced after extensive public input.

Some Democrats had argued that the merger-guideline update under Trump, which was billed as a way to better identify and challenge competitively harmful mergers, still kept a thumb on the scale for those mergers by suggesting they were generally pro-competitive.

Vertical mergers are tie-ups that combine different parts of the same supply chain, such as AT&T with its video services and Time Warner with its content production — a deal that the Trump-era Justice Department tried unsuccessfully to block.

The CTA told the FTC it opposed any move to rescind the guidance, particularly without robust notice and public input on what it said would be a sudden shift away from traditional merger reviews, a shift that would "stifle companies’ ability to plan, invest, and innovate."

"We urge the commission to reject the vote to withdraw the Guidelines and Commentary, or in the alternative, to postpone the vote and provide notice and a reasonable comment period for public consideration and input," CTA said.

The FTC under new chair Lina Khan has signaled it will be looking hard at big tech companies and whether they got that big via buying up to monopoly. That is the FTC's allegation against Facebook in a revised complaint.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.