Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google Targeted in Bipartisan Antitrust Reform Bills

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google could be forced to review their business practices under a broad set of antitrust reforms introduced by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Friday.

The package of five bills, the drafts of which were reported by CNBC and other outlets, would make it difficult for dominant platforms to complete mergers and prohibit them from owning businesses with clear conflicts of interest. The legislation represents the most comprehensive effort to reform century-old antitrust laws in decades.

The bills must be voted favorably by the Judicial Committee before reaching the plenary session of the Chamber. They would also have to be approved by the Senate before the president could sign them into law.

The measures stem from an extensive investigation by the House judicial subcommittee on antitrust on the four companies that was completed last year.

The panel found at the time that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have monopoly power and that antitrust laws need to be revised to better address the unique challenges of competition in digital markets.

While Democrats and Republicans diverged on some of the solutions, they mostly agreed on the alleged competitive damage and that reform was necessary to revitalize markets.

Two of the new bills introduced on Friday could prove especially difficult for Amazon and Apple to navigate, given that both operate markets that include their own products or applications that compete with those of other vendors or developers who depend on their services, a setup. risky under the new legislation. Those bills include the Platform Antitrust Act, which appears to have been renamed the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, sponsored by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust chairman Rep. David Cicilline, DR. I., and the Final Platform Monopolies Act, sponsored by Vice President Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

The bills, in draft form, have already inspired pushback from tech-funded groups.

“Adopting the European regulatory model would make it difficult for US tech companies to innovate and compete both here and globally,” Geoffrey Manne, president and founder of the International Center for Law and Economics, said in a statement. The group has received funding from Google in the past.

Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the center-left advocacy group Chamber of Progress, backed by Amazon, Facebook, and Google, among others, posted a post on Medium earlier this week arguing that consumers would lose more than a dozen popular features if those two bills are passed. .

Under those proposals, Kovacevich argued, Amazon would not be able to offer free Prime shipping for some products and Google would not be able to offer users the most popular results for businesses in their areas due to anti-discrimination rules on its platforms. He also wrote that Apple would not be allowed to pre-install its own “Find My” applications on its devices that help users locate lost items. Facebook couldn’t allow easy cross-posting on Instagram, also due to conflict of interest and nondiscrimination provisions, Kovacevich argued.

Despite the technology pushback, bipartisan support for the bill is a formidable sign for the industry. The industry has inspired a rare collaboration between Democrats and Republicans, who believe that tech companies have become too powerful and worry about stagnating innovation.

Spotify and Roku, which have criticized tech giants in the past, applauded some of the bills.

Spotify’s Chief Legal Officer Horacio Gutiérrez called the American Choice and Innovation Act “an important step in addressing anti-competitive behavior in the App Store ecosystem, and a clear sign that momentum has shifted as the world is realizing the need to demand fair competition in the app economy. “

“Roku applauds Representatives David Cicilline and Ken Buck for taking a crucial step to curb the predatory and anti-competitive behavior of some of the most powerful companies in the country,” Roku said in a statement. “Roku has first-hand experience competing and interacting with these monopolists, and we have seen them flagrantly ignore antitrust laws and harm consumers by leveraging their dominance in one line of business to stifle competition in another. An aggressive set of reforms is needed to avoid a future in which these monopolists further abuse consumer choices and hamper access to independent and innovative products. “

Here is an overview of the five bills announced on Friday:

  • Law to end platform monopolies: Sponsored by Jayapal, whose district includes Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, and co-sponsored by Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, this bill would make it illegal for a platform with at least 50 million monthly active users in the US. And a market capitalization of more than $ 600 billion to own or operate a business that presents a clear conflict of interest. Illegal disputes would include anything that incentivizes a company to favor its own services over a competitor’s or hurts potential competitors using the platform. Lawmakers have previously raised concerns that both Amazon and Apple, which run their own platforms for sellers and developers, respectively, could undermine competition due to a conflict of interest for their own competing products or apps.
  • American Choice and Innovation Online Act: This bill, proposed by Cicilline and co-sponsored by Gooden, would prohibit dominant platforms from giving advantages to their own products and services over those of competitors on the platform. It would also prohibit other types of discriminatory behavior by mainstream platforms, such as excluding a competitor who uses the platform from the services offered by the platform, and it would prohibit dominant platforms from using data collected on their non-public services to others as fuel. its own competing products, among several other prohibitions.
  • Platform Opportunities and Competition Law: This proposal by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., co-sponsored by Subcommittee Senior Ken Buck, R-Colorado, would shift the burden of proof in merger cases to the dominant platforms to demonstrate that their acquisitions are proprietary. legal fact. rather than the government having to show that they will reduce competition. The move would likely slow down acquisitions by dominant tech firms substantially.
  • Increased compatibility and competition by enabling the Service Change Act (ACCESS): This bill proposed by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania, and co-sponsored by Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, would force mainstream platforms to maintain certain data portability and interoperability standards, making it easier for consumers to take your data. data with them to other platforms.
  • Merger filing fee modernization law: This bill, introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, and co-sponsored by Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Indiana, appears to be supplemental legislation to the bipartisan bill of the same name in the Senate. The Senate version passed that chamber Tuesday as part of a $ 250 billion technology and manufacturing bill. The bill would increase the fees companies pay to notify the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division of major mergers to raise funds for those agencies.

This story is unfolding. Check back for updates.

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