Press Release Platform Competition

Public Knowledge Welcomes FTC Move to Rescind Vertical Merger Guidelines

September 15, 2021
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Today, the Federal Trade Commission voted to rescind the agency’s 2020 vertical merger guidelines detailing how the Commission will evaluate vertical mergers. 

Last year, Public Knowledge, along with New America’s Open Technology Institute, provided comments on the draft guidelines. The groups called for removing any “safe harbors,” signaling some deals would receive minimal scrutiny. The groups also requested the FTC both add presumptions against vertical mergers of firms with dominant market shares and clarify the harms that vertical mergers can pose for competition and consumers. The final guidelines took several of Public Knowledge’s recommendations into account, yet remained far too friendly to vertical deals.

Given vertical mergers are a hallmark of the technology sector, lacking vertical enforcement threatens to wave through increasing market concentration while consumers foot the bill through decreased choice and endangered supply chains. Public Knowledge supports rescinding these guidelines and urges the agency to re-open the public input process and issue new ones that reflect the reality of modern mergers — and without the same critical shortcomings.

The following can be attributed to Alex Petros, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“We commend the FTC for rescinding the flawed and rushed 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines. This is just the latest example of the FTC identifying ways it can improve antitrust enforcement right now and signaling that bold action is needed to protect competition and consumers. Far from waving through vertical mergers based on vague procompetitive promises, the FTC should carefully scrutinize vertical deals that threaten competition. We look forward to working with the Commission to strengthen the guidelines so that they are in the best interests of consumers — not would-be monopolists.”