F.T.C. v. Amazon.com, Inc., NO. C14-1038-JCC (W.D. Wash. Apr. 26, 2016)
Amazon made it really easy for kids to make in-app purchases in “free” apps; the court agreed with the FTC that this was bad, denying the FTC’s request for an injunction and holding the question of damages for further briefing.
In some ways the biggest story here is how Amazon convinced a judge to redact embarrassing, but highly relevant and non-trade-secret, information about Amazon’s business practices here, despite the grant of summary judgment on liability for §5 violations. The willingness to let parties choose what the court makes public is even more disturbing than the willingness to seal documents apparently willy-nilly. Here’s a story focusing on that.
15 U.S.C. § 57b–2 covers “any document, tangible thing, or transcript of oral testimony received by the Commission pursuant to compulsory process in an investigation” and requires confidentiality of documents produced pursuant to a civil investigative demand. However, this provision doesn’t prevent disclosure of relevant information in judicial proceedings to which the Commission is a party. 16 C.F.R. § 4.10(g), et seq., provides FTC Rules of Practice for Adjudicative Proceedings. This regulation allows disclosure of information obtained from a CID, subject to the submitter’s ability to seek a protective or in camera order. Nothing in the (accidentally unredacted) opinion of the court discloses a trade secret, as far as I can tell, and at least some of what was redacted—specifically, the FTC’s request for a 20-year monitoring requirement as part of its request for injunctive relief—didn’t come from Amazon in the first place, so the statute can’t really explain what happened here. What did?