Federal Trade Commission
Economic Liberty Task Force
FTC Chair To Take On Job Licensing With New ‘‘Economic Liberty Task Force’’ By Jimmy Hoover.
Washington (February 23, 2017, 1:30 PM EST) -- The new acting chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission launched a task force Thursday to tackle state and local licensing requirements that have proliferated in recent years for everyone from hairdressers and makeup artists to interior designers, a new initiative designed to pare down on “dubious” and "ridiculous requirements threatening economic growth.
During a speech at George Mason University's law school, her alma mater, acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen railed against the “egregious” effects of occupational licensing, citing a study averring that unnecessary trade certification requirements block 2.85 million jobs and cost consumers $203 billion annually.
“The public health and safety rationale for regulating many of those occupations ranges from dubious to ridiculous,” she said at GMU’s Antonin Scalia Law School during an antitrust conference. “I challenge anyone to explain why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the public from rogue interior designers carpet-bombing living rooms with ugly throw pillows.”
For Ohlhausen –– a Republican and frequent proponent of “regulatory humility,” or deregulation –– the speech marks the second time that she has publicly attacked allegedly anticompetitive job licensing since she was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the FTC on Jan. 25, indicating that the area will receive heightened scrutiny in the new administration.
Edith Ramirez, the head of the agency under the Obama administration, also warned against restrictive licensing requirements during her tenure, but did so sparingly and usually in reference to the agency’s 2015 Supreme Court victory in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC. Ramirez instead often directed public statements to issues such as consumer data protection and the flurry of health care mergers. Earlier this month, Ohlhausen alluded to plans to set up the task force as her first major policy action to focus on how to eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing requirements, highlighting the need to work with state legislators.
Another big-ticket item on Ohlhausen’s agenda are reforms to the FTC’s pre-suit investigation process of companies. Document requests impose large compliance costs on the companies that must respond to them, and the agency should lighten the load for legitimate businesses, Ohlhausen said at a consumer protection conference in Atlanta days after assuming the top role at the agency.
--Additional reporting by Melissa Lipman and Eric Kroh. Editing by Jack Karp.