Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Trade Regulation Tidbits

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

News, updates, and observations:

 Senator Herb Kohl (D, Wis.), chairman of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, said his subcommittee was likely to hold a hearing to examine whether the merger of Continental and United Airlines will lead to higher prices or lower quality of service. Continental and United announced a difinititve merger agreement on May 3. The carriers said that the combination would “bring together the two most complementary networks of any U.S. carriers, with minimal domestic and no international route overlaps.” In a May 3 statement, Senator Kohl commented that the merger “would create the nation’s largest airline and will no doubt affect the travel choices for millions of consumers across the nation.” While voicing concern that the major airlines face competitive pressures and high costs, Kohl spoke of a “need to insure that airline consolidation does not diminish the competitive choices for air travelers.”

 Legislation to extend permanently the Antitrust Criminal Penalties Enforcement and Reform Act (ACPERA) of 2004 was introduced in the Senate on April 27. Senator Herb Kohl (D, Wis.), sponsor of the measure, said “permanent extension of ACPERA would encourage participation in the Antitrust Division’s leniency program.” ACPERA limits the civil liability of leniency participants to the actual damages caused by that company, rather than treble damages usually available in civil antitrust lawsuits. The law was amended in 2009 to extend the de-trebling provision for one year. Without amendment, it would expire in June. The measure (S. 3259), which was co-sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R, Utah), also calls for the Comptroller General to submit a report to the Committees on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Senate on the effectiveness of the Antitrust Criminal Penalties Enforcement and Reform Act of 2004.

 The FTC told congressional lawmakers that the rapid-fire pace of technological change, including an explosion in children’s use of mobile devices and interactive gaming, has led the agency to accelerate its review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA Rule) to make sure that it is still adequately protecting children’s privacy. Although the FTC reviews most of its rules every 10 years, the COPPA Rule is being reviewed only five years after its last review, in 2005. The comments were made in agency testimony, prepared for delivery by Jessica Rich, Deputy Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance on April 29. The FTC’s COPPA Rule, which took effect in 2000, requires operators of Web sites and online services that target children under age 13 to obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect, use, or disclose personal information from children. The operators must give parents the opportunity to review and delete personal information their children have provided.

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