Antitrust Reforms Could Kill Competition

February 23, 2021 by Victoria Turner
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) reacts to journalist's questions. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Four panelists warned today that proposed legislative reforms for more aggressive antitrust enforcement in Big Tech would likely spill over across all industries, hindering innovation and harming consumers.

Strengthening the antitrust laws – federal and state statutes that restrict the formation of monopolies and prohibit dominant companies from abusing their market power – would deprive the public of the benefits of aggressive competition by putting business decisions further under the microscope of regulators, they said. 

Their remarks came during a NetChoice event, “The Bad Side of Breaking Up Big Tech,” the first of a monthly series the online businesses trade association will host to discuss different policy developments concerning the “Big Tech” firms – Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

One of the most prominent critics of current antitrust policy is Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who earlier this month introduced the antitrust reform bill that was a central focus of the panelists’ discussion. 

Her proposed bill, the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act, would seek a sweeping reform of antitrust laws. 

The legislation would shift the burden of proof in antitrust litigation to the companies charged by regulators with violating the competition laws.

Klobuchar’s bill would also increase funding of the antitrust agencies and ease restrictions around their ability to seek monetary penalties in court.  

But the current legal framework did have its defenders.

Asheesh Argawal, deputy general counsel at think tank TechFreedom said Congress should wait to see how current legal cases regulators have filed against Big Tech companies play out before making any dramatic changes to the law.

He also took aim at Klobuchar’s bill, which he said would diminish competition by increasing civil fines to a point that would deter investments in the tech industry.

Jennifer Huddleston, director of Tech and Innovation Policy at American Action Forum, an independent, center-right policy institute, was also critical of Klobuchar’s proposed reforms, saying they could cause companies to rethink planned mergers and acquisitions and prevent smaller, innovative companies from getting the lifelines they sometimes need to survive.

Huddleston also warned that while the current proposed antitrust reforms target the tech industry almost exclusively, their sweeping nature means they will have serious ramifications for all kinds of businesses, including those in the pharmaceutical, agriculture, and energy sectors, among others.

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