The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced reforms to its internal processes to streamline information requests and improve transparency in Commission investigations.  Quick tutorial — the FTC may issue Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) pursuant to the FTC Act to investigate possible “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” against consumers.

Stemming from the work of the internal Working Groups on Agency Reform and Efficiency, the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) identified best practices and announced reforms related to Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs), which the agency issues in consumer protection cases. The reforms include:

  • Providing plain language descriptions of the CID process and developing business education materials to help small businesses understand how to comply;
  • Adding more detailed descriptions of the scope and purpose of investigations to give companies a better understanding of the information the agency seeks;
  • Where appropriate, limiting the relevant time periods to minimize undue burden on companies;
  • Where appropriate, significantly reducing the length and complexity of CID instructions for providing electronically stored data; and
  • Where appropriate, increasing response times for CIDs (for example, often 21 days to 30 days for targets, and 14 days to 21 days for third parties) to improve the quality and timeliness of compliance by recipients.

In addition, BCP will adhere to its current practice of communicating with investigation targets concerning the status of investigations at least every six months after they comply with the CID.

For those who have been the subject of a CID this won’t take away the pain of having to respond, but moving forward it will help mitigate some of the pain for those subject to a CID.