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Notice

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works; Analysis To Aid Public Comment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission.

ACTION:

Proposed Consent Agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint that accompanies the consent agreement and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before October 10, 2002.

ADDRESSES:

Comments filed in paper form should be directed to: FTC/Office of the Secretary, Room 159-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580. Comments filed in electronic form should be directed to: consent agreement@ftc.gov, as prescribed below.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

L. Barry Costilo, FTC, Bureau of Competition, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580, (202) 326-2024.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and § 2.34 of the Commission's rules of practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for September 10, 2002), on the World Wide Web, at http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​2002/​09/​index.htm. A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. Comments filed in paper form should be directed to: FTC/Office of the Secretary, Room 159-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20580. If a comment contains nonpublic information, it must be filed in paper form, and the first page of the document must be clearly labeled “confidential.” Comments that do not contain any nonpublic information may instead be filed in electronic form (in ASCII format, WordPerfect, or Microsoft Word) as part of or as an attachment to email messages directed to the following email box: consent agreement@ftc.gov. Such comments will be considered by the Commission and will be available for inspection and copying at its principal office in accordance with § 4.9(b)(6)(ii) of the Commission's rules of practice, 16 CFR 4.9(b)(6)(ii)).

Analysis of Proposed Consent Order To Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission has accepted an agreement to a proposed consent order from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (“AIC”). AIC has its principal place of business in Washington, DC.

The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for reception of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received, and decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement's proposed order.

AIC is an association of professional conservators. The complaint alleges that AIC engages in substantial activities for the economic benefit of its members. The complaint alleges that AIC has approximately 3,100 members, many of whom provide professional services for a fee or who are employed by organizations that provide such services for a fee.

A conservation professional is a person who manages, cares for, preserves, or treats cultural objects, including artistic, historical, archaeological, scientific, and religious objects. The conservation professional may determine the condition, the need for treatment or restoration, and the appropriate method for preservation of such objects, and perform the required work to minimize deterioration or to restore such objects to their original state.

The complaint charges that AIC has violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act by acting as a combination of its members and in agreement with some of its members to restrain price competition among conservation professionals. The Start Printed Page 58428complaint alleges that in furtherance of the combination and agreement AIC has adopted and maintained Commentaries to the Guidelines for Practice of the AIC that state that “the consistent undercutting of local or regional market rates should be understood to be unprofessional behavior.” They further state that “when damage to the cultural property is imminent, and funding is limited, a conservation professional may work at reduced fees or pro bono.” Read together, these provisions mean that only in these limited circumstances can a conservator work for free or at reduced fees without being considered to be engaging in “unprofessional behavior.”

The complaint alleges that the above acts and practices constitute unfair methods of competition which have restrained competition unreasonably. It further alleges that the effects of the acts and practices are to discourage and restrict price competition among conservation professionals and to deprive consumers and users of conservation services of the benefit of free and open competition.

AIC has signed a consent agreement containing the proposed consent order. The proposed consent order would prohibit AIC from maintaining or enforcing any policy, ethical rule, interpretation, commentary or guideline that impedes or restricts price competition among conservation professionals, including provision of free or discounted services.

To ensure and monitor compliance, the consent order provides, among other things, that within 90 days after the order becomes final AIC shall remove the provisions that are inconsistent with the order from AIC's Code of Ethics, Guidelines for Practice of the AIC, Commentaries to the Guidelines and AIC's website, and publish the revisions of these documents in such places. In addition, the order requires AIC to publish a copy of the order and complaint in the AIC News. It further provides that the order and complaint shall be published on the AIC web site, with a link placed in a prominent position on the web site's home page. The proposed consent order also contains other provisions to monitor compliance.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreements and proposed orders or to modify in any way their terms.

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By direction of the Commission.

Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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[FR Doc. 02-23468 Filed 9-13-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-M