FTC Announces Reforms to Its Investigative Process
Recently, the FTC announced a set of internal reforms intended to improve the process by which the Commission investigates unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices. The reforms relate to the Civil Investigative Demands ("CID") that the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection issues to request information from investigation targets. In a press release, the FTC notes that the reforms are designed to streamline the CID process and improve transparency in FTC investigations, with the broader goal of furthering Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen's mission to reduce investigational burdens on companies under investigation.
As stated in a related FTC announcement, these reforms include:
- Providing plain language descriptions of the CID process and developing materials to help small businesses understand how to comply;
- Adding more detail about the scope and purpose of investigations to give companies a better understanding of the information the FTC seeks;
- Where appropriate, limiting the relevant time periods to minimize undue burden on companies;
- Where appropriate, shortening and simplifying the instructions for providing electronically stored data; and
- Where appropriate, increasing response times for CIDs (for example, often 21 days to 30 days for targets and 14 days to 21 days for third parties).
To keep companies in the loop about the status of investigations, the FTC also plans to continue its current practice of providing updates to investigation targets at least every six months after they comply with the CID.
So what does this mean for your company? Although it is too early to know the impact of these reforms, we are hopeful that going forward a company receiving a CID will be better informed about the nature of the investigation and better positioned to respond efficiently. Because the FTC introduced these changes as part of a broader effort to improve its processes and focus its resources, we anticipate that additional reforms may follow.
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