A bipartisan group of House lawmakers today debuted five bills aimed at reducing anticompetitive behavior by the tech industry’s biggest players across multiple areas, including e-commerce, mergers and acquisitions, and data interoperability.
The introduction of the proposals follows a landmark antitrust investigation into the tech industry by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. The panel found that Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Google LLC parent Alphabet Inc. and Apple Inc. all hold “monopoly power” in their respective markets.
“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” said Representative David Cicilline, chairman of the antitrust subcommittee. “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.”
The first of the five new bills is the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. It would prevent companies that operate an e-commerce marketplace from giving products they sell via that marketplace an unfair advantage over items sold by independent merchants. The bill also is aimed at prohibiting operating system makers from providing preinstalled apps that can’t be removed by users.
The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act focuses on mergers and acquisitions. The lawmakers sponsoring the bill are looking to prohibit tech giants from buying smaller firms that post a competitive threat. Moreover, the proposal would block acquisitions that “expand or entrench the market power of online platforms.”
The Ending Platform Monopolies Act, the third bill, could reportedly force some tech giants to spin off parts of their business. The text of the bill specifies that an online platform operator covered under the legislation wouldn’t be a allowed to maintain a line of business if that business utilizes its platform “for the sale or provision of products or services.” That might require Apple to stop offering its own apps on the App Store or prevent Amazon from giving its in-house brands an advantage over those of outside sellers selling on its platform.
The fourth bill is dubbed the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act. Its objective is to make it easier for consumers to switch between competing digital services by simplifying the process of moving data from one platform to another. To the same end, platform operators would be required to provide “transparent, third-party-accessible interfaces (including application programming interfaces)” so users can easily download their data.
Capping off the list of new legislative proposals is the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act. If approved, it would require companies to pay bigger regulatory fees when making acquisitions worth $1 billion more. The vision is to use the additional income from those fees to provide regulatory agencies with more resources for enforcing competition laws.
Each bill will have to be approved by the Judiciary Committee before it can advance to a vote before the full House and the Senate.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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