The Federal Trade Commission voted behind closed doors this week on a policy that could limit its ability to crack down on companies that try to stifle competition, National Journal has learned.
Chairwoman Edith Ramirez will announce the new policy in a speech on Thursday, according to commission officials.
The policy marks the first time in the 100-year history of the FTC that it has drawn official boundaries over what it takes to sue companies over "unfair" competition.
In recent years, the FTC has gone after a number of tech giants, including Google and Intel, for antitrust violations, and it is currently investigating Apple for the fees it imposes on rival music-streaming services.
Democrats have resisted any guidelines on the FTC's "unfairness" power that could handcuff the agency from stopping abuse. But business groups and Republicans have been clamoring for years for more guidance, arguing that companies deserve to know what sorts of practices could get them in trouble. Republican Commissioner Joshua Wright has been particularly vocal in pressing Ramirez, a Democrat, to define the limits of the agency's powers.
The FTC's statement, according to commission officials, will include three principles: It bans practices that harm or are likely to harm competition, unless that harm is outweighed by other benefits; the agency will focus on protecting consumers; and the agency should rely on traditional antitrust laws if possible. The full policy is less than a page long and doesn't include any examples, according to officials.