Supreme Court Upholds FTC Complaint of Restraint of Trade Case
The Supreme Court today announced thier decision on the North Carolina's restriction over the Hygentists teeth-whitening businesses. In a divided court decision of 6-3, the 6 Justices agreed with the Federal Trade Commission to charge the dentist dominated NC State Board of Dental Examiners with "anti-competitive and unfair" actions. Supporting this decision Justice Kennedy wrote: "Active market participants cannot be allowed to regulate their own markets free from antitrust accountability". This ruling provides that state professional boards regulating their competitors must be supervised by state governments to avoid federal antitrust scrutiny, siding with the Federal Trade Commission in a dispute with the North Carolina's dental board.
The 4 yr old case stems from the FTC's claims that the NC Dental board violated federal antitrust law by sending letters to stop "non-dentists" from offering teeth-whitening services. Federal antitrust law generally prohibits individuals or businesses from collaborating to repel competition. Many following this anti-trust action, anticiapte that now other state regulatory boards will face more challenges and will expect state legislatures to make more decision about regulatory boards. Many are pleased with the Supreme Court's recognition that the antitrust laws limit the ability of powerful boards to suppress competition through unfair state professional boards.
National licensing boards now regulate over 800 professions, according to Public Citizen and this decison may help spawn more ROT claims by other professions in other states! Justice Alito wrote the dissent for himself and Justices Scalia and Thomas calling the court's decision a serious misunderstanding of how state-action antitrust immunity is supposed to work.He wrote that "professional and occupational licensing requirements have often been used" to serve an industry rather than the public and warned the decision opens for new complications. Alito added, " It will create practical problems and is likely to have far-reaching effects on the states' regulation of professions".
This is the first case that has gotten to the U.S. Supreme Court that now has potential implications for nursing scope-of-practice regulations in every state!
SUMMARY of the Supreme Court Case:
Issue: Whether, for purposes of the state-action exemption from federal antitrust law, an official state regulatory board created by state law may properly be treated as a "private" actor simply because, pursuant to state law, a majority of the board's members are also market participants who are elected to their official positions by other market participants.
SCOTUS blog Coverage Opinion analysis:
No antitrust immunity for professional licensing boards
Argument analysis: Court wary of immunity for licensing boards, but what about doctors?
Argument preview: Do state licensing boards have immunity from antitrust laws?
Petition of the day -