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Bipartisan Antitrust Package Seeks to Rein in Tech Giants

June 11, 2021 by Dan McCue
Rep. David Cicilline

House lawmakers on Friday introduced sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at restraining the power of large tech companies and preventing corporate consolidation across the economy.

Introduced by Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Buck, R-Colo., the five bills are directed squarely at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, and seek to break their grip on online commerce, information and entertainment.

Among other things, the bills would make it easier to break up businesses that use their dominance in one arena to push into and dominate another, would make it harder for them to acquire rivals, and would arm federal regulators with more tools to make the digital marketplace as fair a playing field as possible.

“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” Cicilline said in a written statement. “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work. Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.”

Brock agreed, saying “Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have prioritized power over innovation and harmed American businesses and consumers in the process.”

“These companies have maintained monopoly power in the online marketplace by using a variety of anticompetitive behaviors to stifle competition,” he continued. “This legislation breaks up Big Tech’s monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online, and fosters an online market that encourages innovation and provides American small businesses with a fair playing field. Doing nothing is not an option, we must act now.”

The legislative package, which goes by the name, “A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, Choice,” consists of five bipartisan bills drafted by lawmakers on the Antitrust Subcommittee, which last year completed a 16-month investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace and the unregulated power wielded by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

They include:

  • The “American Innovation and Choice Online Act” to prohibit discriminatory conduct by dominant platforms, including a ban on self-preferencing and picking winners and losers online. The bill is sponsored by Chairman Cicilline and co-sponsored by Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas.
  • The “Platform Competition and Opportunity Act” prohibits acquisitions of competitive threats by dominant platforms, as well acquisitions that expand or entrench the market power of online platforms. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.  and co-sponsored by Ranking Member Buck.
  • The “Ending Platform Monopolies Act” eliminates the ability of dominant platforms to leverage their control across multiple business lines to self-preference and disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and co-sponsored by Rep. Gooden.
  • The “Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act” promotes competition online by lowering barriers to entry and switching costs for businesses and consumers through interoperability and data portability requirements. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa. and co-sponsored by Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah.
  • The “Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act” updates filing fees for mergers for the first time in two decades to ensure that Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have the resources they need to aggressively enforce the antitrust laws. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and co-sponsored by Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind.

The package has been forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee, the chairman of which, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is one of the co-sponsors of the bills.

In a statement, Nadler said Friday, “the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into digital markets uncovered overwhelming evidence of anti-competitive conduct that has seriously impacted consumers and small businesses.”

“I’m proud to be joining my colleagues, once again in a bipartisan fashion, to introduce a package of legislation that will restore competition online and level the playing field for innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups. Our actions today to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement will ensure that our laws can finally and effectively meet the challenges of our modern economy,” Nadler said.

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