Lawmakers on edge over potential FTC power grab that could mess up the Internet

As the Federal Trade Commission sets their sights on Google, two California House Democrats are railing against a potential expansion of the FTC’s antitrust powers.

Recent leaks from inside the FTC suggest that, if the agency cannot find a way to penalize Google under the Sherman Antitrust Act, it is considering the use of Section 5 of the FTC Act. Section 5 prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”

In a letter Monday to the FTC, Representatives Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren expressed concern that should the FTC resort to use of Section 5, it would constitute as a dangerous power grab by the agency.

“Such a massive expansion of FTC jurisdiction would be unwarranted, unwise, and likely have negative implications for our nation’s economy,” they said.

Their voices echoed the concern expressed by 10 Republican senators only four days earlier, although they did not mention Google by name.

“We take no position regarding the merits of any matter currently under investigation by the Commission; however, we are concerned about the apparent eagerness of the Commission under your leadership to expand Section 5 actions without a clear indication of authority or a limiting principle,” said the senators. They included Sens. Jim DeMint, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Orrin Hatch, John Thune, John Cornyn, Johnny Isakson, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, Pat Toomey, and Marco Rubio.

“When a federal agency uses creative theories to expand its activites, entrepreneurs may be deterred from innovating and growing lest they be targeted by government action,” they said.

In October, Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran also cautioned the FTC against any kind of regulatory overreach on the Internet

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