New White House Policy on Anti-Competitive Behavior Could Affect Aviation

The President is expected to sign a new Executive Order on competition, today. Although the Order is not yet available,the Administration has already released a Fact Sheet about the planned Executive Order. The title of the new Executive Order is expected to be “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy.”

The official purpose of this Executive Order is to promote competition. The Administration says it is taking aim at large companies that adversely impact competition. But every new policy has the potential for unintended consequences, so we will be carefully watching this Executive Order and the regulations that are generated to implement it.

Here are some highlights from the Fact Sheet of items that could potentially affect aviation businesses:

  • The Executive Order encourages DOT to issue rules requiring that air carriers offer certain ancillary fee refunds to consumers.
  • The Executive Order encourages DOT to issue rules requiring greater clarity and disclosure of ancillary fees (including baggage, change, and cancellation fees).
  • The Executive Order encourages the FTC to ban or limit non-compete clauses that affect the labor market. Such clauses are fairly normal for employees who have access to economically-sensitive confidential information in our industry. A ban on such clauses could affect existing relationships and cause companies to pursue other strategies for protecting sensitive data.
  • The Executive Order encourages the FTC and DOJ to prevent employers from sharing wage and benefit information with one another.
  • The Executive Order encourages the FTC to establish rules on surveillance and the accumulation of data. This is meant to apply to “Big-Tech” but it could easily spill-over into obligations on anyone who collects data and uses the internet (i.e. everyone).
  • The Executive Order encourages the FTC to issue rules against restrictions on using independent repair shops. This is meant to apply to cell phones, but this could set a precedent that applies to aviation repair.
  • The Executive Order calls for passage of the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act.” This Act would expand the reach of the Fair Labor Standards Act, would permit secondary strikes (under which a union can strike in support of someone else’s rights, even when it does not have a direct interest in the issue), and expanding whistleblower protection.
  • The Executive Order describes an Administration policy of greater scrutiny of mergers, including acquisition of small companies. This is meant to apply to internet service companies but it could easily be applied to other industries (including aviation).

It often takes several days after an Executive Order is announced for it to be published in the Federal Register. We will be watching carefully for this one, as well as watching the regulations and policies that are generated in its wake.

About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. Since 1992, he has represented aviation trade associations and businesses that include aircraft and aircraft parts manufacturers, distributors, and repair stations, as well as both commercial and private operators. Blog content published by Mr. Dickstein is not legal advice; and may not reflect all possible fact patterns. Readers should exercise care when applying information from blog articles to their own fact patterns.

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