Trustbusters pick fight that can make friends

Signage is seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

CHICAGO, March 24 (Reuters Breakingviews) - After a year of fighting losing battles, one of the United States’ biggest trustbusters is taking on a fight where it will be easy to find support. The Federal Trade Commission proposed new rules on Thursday that would make canceling subscriptions less burdensome for consumers. The measures are sensible and offer obvious benefits to millions of Americans. Plus it could earn the FTC some brownie points.

That’s in stark contrast to the complex, lengthy and occasionally contentious — and unsuccessful — antitrust fights the commission had been waging. Proving in court that certain mergers shouldn't go through has been tough. The FTC’s victories, like stopping Nvidia (NVDA.O) from buying semiconductor firm Arm, have been offset by losses against UnitedHealth (UNH.N), Illumina (ILMN.O), and Meta Platforms (META.O) deals.

The FTC’s new subscription plans have a clearer path to success. The agency is seeking a rule change, not a legal fight. They'll take comments and then vote to finalize the rule, and then it's incorporated. For both the FTC and Americans, it's a win. (By Ben Winck)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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