FTC Reinforces Guidelines for Association Data Sharing

FTC Reinforces Guidelines for Association Data Sharing

By: Robert M. Portman

When may an association collect and share member information without running the risk of an antitrust challenge by federal authorities? A recent case before the FTC sheds some light.

Associations are not quite "walking conspiracies," in the words of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Consolidated Metal Products v. American Petroleum Institute (846 F.2d 284, 293-94 (5th Cir. 1988)). But they have been antitrust targets since the early 20th century. One activity that has drawn antitrust scrutiny is the collection of price- or cost-related data by associations or their designees. A recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advisory opinion involving the sharing of competitively sensitive information among drug manufacturers reinforces the conclusion that such information sharing does not violate antitrust laws as long as certain safeguards are adopted.  ...