November 13, 2012
Nudging the FTC on the Prenotification Negative Option Rule to Include Institutional Consumers
In 2009, AALL submitted comments to the FTC that advocated expanding the scope of the Prenotification Negative Option Plan Rule beyond individual consumers to include institutional consumers. Nothing happened. In a renewed effort to get the FTC's attention, AALL's Consumer Advocacy Caucus developed a model Prenotification Negative Option Plan complaint that was approved by the Executive Board this summer. See FTC Prenotification Negative Option Rule Recommendation and FTC Prenotification Negative Option Rule Update.
AALL’s Government Relations Office has issued Action Alert: Submit a Vendor Complaint to the Federal Trade Commission Re: the Prenotification Negative Option Rule (Sept. 2012) to carry forward this effort. The objective is that if the FTC receives enough complaints, the FTC might actually do something about revising the scope of the Prenotification Negative Option Plan Rule.
Will It Work? My hunch is the bad actors in the legal publishing industry eventually will stop sending and billing institutional consumers unordered publications without adequate prenotification periods and disclosures to avoid FTC oversight. That in itself would be a consumer advocacy victory but we will have to wait and see.
Do note that the Action Alert requests that a copy of any complaint submitted to the FTC should be sent to AALL's Government Affairs Office to "keep track of the complaints submitted." I don't know if this means the Government Affairs Office intends to monitor the FTC's responses to complaints or not but the Office has done its job.
By promoting more robust AALL consumer advocacy efforts, I believe and it is only my opinion, that the Consumer Advocacy Caucus, author of the sample complaint, should receive copies of all filed complaints and any FTC responses received by law libraries in a watchdog-like manner for follow-up purposes.
But first, AALL and the Caucus must work out their differences. The E-Board recently rejected the revised statement of purpose the Caucus submitted during AALL's re-registration process. I, for one, have not seen the re-registration statement so I have no opinion on this issue. The E-Board may have legitimate reasons for its rejection. Alternatively the Caucus may need to explain whatever changes it made are necessary for executing more robust AALL consumer advocacy efforts. [JH}