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What Happens When Enforcers Stop Being Polite
The FTC goes after TurboTax-maker Intuit for deceptive marketing at tax time, and the Antitrust Division blocks another merger in the supply chain space.
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Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division acted boldly today. First, it’s near tax filing day. So here’s the FTC going after TurboTax filing software maker Intuit, which is a very bad actor.
The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against Intuit Inc., the maker of the popular TurboTax tax filing software, by issuing an administrative complaint against the company for deceiving consumers with bogus advertisements pitching “free” tax filing that millions of consumers could not use. In addition, to prevent ongoing harm to consumers rushing to file their taxes, the Commission also filed a federal district court complaint asking a court to order Intuit to halt its deceptive advertising immediately. ..
In at least one ad a disclaimer appeared on the screen while an announcer said “That’s right, TurboTax Free is free. Free, free free free.”
Intuit has been deceiving people for years, telling them their software is free and then charging them money anyway. In 2020, for instance, only a third of tax filers were eligible to use TurboTax’s free product.
It’s not a surprise that Intuit is dirty, because TurboTax is one of those products that shouldn’t really exist. In fact, in a lot of countries, there is no filing of taxes. The national tax authority has your data, and just does your taxes for you. Not so in the U.S. Intuit, which makes TurboTax, has lobbied Congress to block the IRS from doing your taxes for you. Intuit's Turbotax, in other words, is basically a pointless software package attached to a political slush fund designed to annoy and scare Americans at tax time.
Intuit also cheats people by deceiving them about the cost of the product. Finally, the FTC is cracking down on the deception piece, though it was a 3 to 1 vote. Who dissented? As usual, it was Republican Commissioner Noah Phillips on the side of letting Intuit cheat you at tax time. He seems fun.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Kanter’s DOJ Antitrust Division just blocked a merger between Cargotec and Konecranes in an arcane but critical supply chain arena, the “manufacture and supply of four types of container handling equipment: straddle carriers, rubber-tired gantry cranes, automated stacking cranes, and rail-mounted gantry cranes. Each piece of equipment has a unique design that allows the equipment to move containers between different modes of transportation in the supply chain.” These products do not roll off the tongue, but the failure to invest in enough of them, as well as other port infrastructure, has led us to substantial delays in shipping and thus price hikes.
Go team anti-monopoly!