Federal Trade Commission Targets Ridesharing and AirBnB

The FTC targets ridesharing but makes it sound plausible by using rhetoric that could mean anything.

With Uber offices being raided in Europe, the job of FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez is to make speeches that free the government to take action toward Uber, Airbnb, and others. Thus, the National Journal reports, “FTC Chief Calls for ‘Targeted’ Regulation of Uber, Airbnb.” What kind of targeting? The article explains, “Edith Ramirez is taking a cautious step to rein in ‘sharing economy’ apps.”

Obviously, we are expected to believe that Ramirez is the embodiment of careful restraint since she is only “taking a cautious step.” But why “rein in” Uber or Airbnb at all? Why not leave them alone? The rhetoric simply assumes that the apps must be restrained. Why?

Flex­ible” and “tar­geted” reg­u­la­tions of so-called “shar­ing eco­nomy” ser­vices like Uber and Airb­nb may be ne­ces­sary, the head of the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion said Fri­day.

In a speech at Ford­ham Uni­versity Law School, FTC Chair­wo­man Edith Ramirez warned that im­pos­ing “leg­acy reg­u­la­tions on new busi­ness mod­els” can stifle com­pet­i­tion and ul­ti­mately leaves con­sumers worse off. But, she said, reg­u­lat­ors shouldn’t shy away from en­for­cing im­port­ant con­sumer pro­tec­tions on is­sues like health, safety, or pri­vacy.

“We must al­low com­pet­i­tion and in­nov­a­tion in the form of these new peer-to-peer busi­ness mod­els to flour­ish,” Ramirez said, ac­cord­ing to copy of her re­marks. “At the same time, where ne­ces­sary, tar­geted reg­u­lat­ory meas­ures may be needed to en­sure that these new busi­ness mod­els have ap­pro­pri­ate con­sumer pro­tec­tions; but they should be no great­er than ne­ces­sary to ad­dress those con­cerns.”

Any new reg­u­la­tions might not ne­ces­sar­ily come from the FTC it­self. While the com­mis­sion does have au­thor­ity over is­sues like pri­vacy and data se­cur­ity, it also of­fers ad­vice to state and loc­al agen­cies on how to im­pose reg­u­la­tions without hurt­ing com­pet­i­tion.

Have the customers asked for any so-called “consumer protections”? No evidence is mentioned of a demand for such “targeted regulations.”

Find­ing the right middle ground, Ramirez ac­know­ledged, is “com­plex and chal­len­ging” and has “no simple an­swers.”

In other words, the government will do what it wants and there will be no objective criteria for judging government actions.

Ramirez says some nice things but she plainly leaves open infinite possibilities for exercising the coercive power of government.