Has the FTC Gone Too Far in its Legal Settlement with Google?

In a Wall Street Journal article last week that discusses the FTC legal settlement with Google, we learn that this settlement might impact technology innovation for the next 20 years!  What legal settlement are they referring too?  Why might it impact technology innovation for 20 years?  Has the Federal Trade Commission morphed into the Federal Technology Commission?  And, what is the FTC’s real role anyway?

This month Google agreed to pay $19M to settle a complaint with the FTC.  The complaint centered on whether Google had made it too easy for children to make in-app purchases within the Android app store.  For example, children might choose to purchase something while playing a game.  The FTC thought Google made it too easy for such purchases.

By settling, the FTC effectively can regulate technology design decisions for 20 years into the future, thereby impacting potential technology decisions and possible innovation of a technical nature.  As The Wall Street Journal article points out, this is just the latest in a series of legal settlements that might hobble future technology innovation.

While is this the case?  These legal settlements are consent orders which come with broad regulatory oversight authority.  So, the issue is not just $19M this month, but it’s two decades of potential oversight and interference in the future.

According to the FTC’s website, the mission of the FTC is: “To prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process; and to accomplish this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.”

For those concerned with economic freedom, these legal settlements amount to more regulatory interference with free enterprise and free markets, as well as more potential damage to innovation and economic growth.

For more about the impact and costs of regulations on our economic freedom and economic growth, please read my new book: Renewing America and Its Heritage of Freedom: What Freedom-Loving Americans Can Do to Help.

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