Interesting Tidbits From FTC’s Antitrust Win Against 1-800 Contacts’ Keyword Ad Restrictions

30 11 2017

Over the course of about a decade starting in 2004, 1-800 Contacts entered into over a dozen settlement agreements with competitors, most of which mutually restricted both parties from buying keyword ads triggered to their competitor’s trademarks and sometimes requiring the use of negative keywords. The FTC challenged this practice as anti-competitive via the FTC’s administrative adjudication process. In a behemoth 215 page opinion peppered with annoying redactions, the ALJ agrees with the FTC. The opinion’s summary:

Complaint Counsel has met its burden of proving that the Challenged Agreements unreasonably restrain trade in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. Contrary to Respondent’s argument, FTC v. Actavis, 133 S. Ct. 2223 (2013), is not authority for the proposition that trademark settlement agreements are immune from antitrust scrutiny.

The evidence in this case demonstrates that the advertising restraints imposed by the Challenged Agreements cause harm to consumers and competition in the market for the sale of contact lenses online. This is sufficient to establish Complaint Counsel’s prima facie case that the agreements are anticompetitive. The evidence fails to prove that the Challenged Agreements have countervailing procompetitive benefits that outweigh or justify the demonstrated anticompetitive effects of the Challenged Agreements. Accordingly, the Challenged Agreements violate Section 5 of the FTC Act.

This opinion is chock-full of goodies. Normally I’d recommend reading the whole thing. However, at a hefty 215 pages, it would take you a long time to do so. Here are some of the highlights I saw.



Case citation: In the Matter of 1-800 Contacts, Inc., Docket No. 9372 (FTC Off. of Admin. L. Judges Oct. 27, 2017)

Case library: The FTC maintains a page with all of the public filings in this case. Here’s a selected library of materials:


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