Biden to launch joint FTC-DOJ task force to crack down on ‘unfair and illegal pricing’

Biden to launch joint FTC-DOJ task force to crack down on ‘unfair and illegal pricing’

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Federal Trade Commission on Capitol Hill on July 13, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Worm | Reuters

President Joe Biden will launch a new task force on Tuesday to address “unfair and illegal” corporate pricing. Biden sees this as a key reason why consumers are not yet feeling the effects of cooling inflation rates and a strong economy.

The task force is co-led by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, two agencies that have been at the forefront of the Biden administration’s aggressive regulatory agenda over the past three years.

“We are pleased to co-chair the President’s new Strike Force on Unfair and Illegal Pricing, building on the FTC’s extensive work to promote competition and combat unlawful business practices that drive up costs for Americans.” FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan told reporters on a call Monday.

Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general for antitrust, will co-chair the task force with Khan.

“Here at the Department of Justice, we are taking on some of the most powerful corporations in the world so we can improve the lives of American families,” Kanter said on the call.

Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, arrives at the federal courthouse in Washington, DC on September 12, 2023.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

On Tuesday afternoon, Biden will convene the sixth formal meeting of the White House Competition Council, a group of senior officials across the government tasked with rooting out anti-competitive practices across a wide range of industries.

“Over the last year, supply chains have returned to normal and inflation has fallen,” Lael Brainard, director of the National Economic Council, said on the call. “Some companies are not passing these savings on to consumers…President Biden is fed up with corporate practices that unfairly increase costs for consumers, and he is taking action.”

Before the council meeting, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will publish a final rule to reduce late fees on credit cards. The Department of Agriculture will also publish final protections for farmers from potentially discriminatory processing practices.

The announcements and meeting are part of Biden’s ongoing crusade against companies’ pricing practices, which he believes are unfair. The White House believes they directly contribute to the public perception that the economy is doing poorly, even though data objectively points to a strong U.S. economy.

“The Competition Council and its members have worked to reduce the cost of everything from hearing aids to asthma inhalers to epi-pens to air travel,” Brainard said.

Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard speaks during an interview in Washington, DC, Monday, November 14, 2022.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

However, the question remains as to exactly what measures regulators can take to crack down on companies that exercise their pricing power more aggressively than others.

“Across these agencies, there are dozens of laws that can come into play in certain situations when high prices harm consumers,” a senior administration official said on Monday’s conference call. “And it depends on how and when.”

Biden has pointed to “price gouging” and “shrinkflation” as two examples of corporate pricing strategies that keep profits high even as wholesale and transportation costs fall.

But two months into the election year, the narrative of a strong economy may finally be gaining traction among voters who have not yet given Biden credit for the economy’s soft landing. Instead, they blamed him for the increased cost of living following the pandemic.

Four new surveys released over the weekend pointed to signs of growing economic optimism among respondents.

Still, the polls showed Biden trailing his likely opponent in November, twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, in a hypothetical head-to-head contest.

Source link

2024-03-05 13:47:21