The United States House Judiciary Committee this week approved half a dozen major bipartisan antitrust bills aimed at suppressing the growing power of Big Tech and its monopolization of certain markets.
The panel, led by Jerry Nadler (D-NY), debated for nearly 30 hours on Wednesday and Thursday to move the vast six-ticket bundle forward. The proposed laws include all kinds of measures to prevent companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and others from dominating their sectors of the tech industry.
There was probably a lot of lobbying and other bickering behind and in the foreground over the exact wording of the package. For example, some lawmakers feared that Microsoft would end up avoiding certain provisions of the proposed laws that would otherwise hit Google and Apple. The adjustments were made – like removing “mobile” from “mobile operating system” in the fine print – to make sure no one squirms.
After the bills were approved, Representative David Cicillin (D-RI), who heads the panel’s subcommittee on antitrust laws, tweeted:
After 29 hours, and Big Tech’s best efforts, the House Judiciary Committee passed all six bills on our agenda to build #AStrongerOnlineEconomy! Big win for consumers, workers and small businesses!
– David Cicillin (@davidcicillin) June 24, 2021
Here is a brief overview of what was brought forward by the committee to the next stage:
- The U.S. Online Choice and Innovation Act [PDF] attacks the gatekeepers who control competition on digital platforms. It prevents a company from imposing rules and regulations that unfairly disadvantage third parties who also offer products on that company’s platform or operating system. Bill is sponsored by Reps Cicillin (D-RI) and Lance Gooden (R-TX).
- Competition Law and Platform Opportunities [PDF] emphasizes acquisitions. Under the bill, dominant companies are not allowed to take over competitors or buy shares and assets in competing companies. While this would prevent something like Facebook from buying Instagram, there are concerns that it is a bit too broad and prevents things like a startup’s innovative technology from reaching a mass market or an audience through an acquisition by. a well-endowed actor. It was co-sponsored by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Ken Buck (R-CO).
- The third bill on the list, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act [PDF], was the most controversial and was passed by a narrow range of 21-20. This ensures that companies cannot unfairly sell their own product lines on their own platform. This is aimed at companies like Amazon that exploit sales figures to create their own branded products, such as cheap AmazonBasics equipment, putting small businesses at a disadvantage. He was supported by representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Lance Gooden (R-TX).
- Increased compatibility and competition by allowing service switching or the ACCESS law [PDF] also passed. It ensures that platforms should be transparent about user data and allow third-party companies to easily switch to other services at minimal cost. House Representatives Mary Scanlon (D-PA) and Burgess Owens (R-UT) co-sponsored the bill.
- The State Antitrust Enforcement Places Act [PDF] empowers state attorneys general to decide the location of antitrust prosecutions in federal courts. This is aimed at preventing the tech titans from moving proceedings to courts that are perceived to be more mega-body friendly or sympathetic, which also increases the cost of litigation. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) led this bill, which was co-sponsored by Reps Cicillin, Dan Bishop (R-NC), Burgess Owens (R-Utah) and Joe Neguse (D-CO).
- Finally, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act [PDF] strengthens the ability of organizations such as the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to enforce antitrust laws by increasing fees for more than $ 5 billion in merger deals to fund more investigations, as well as ‘by allocating $ 670 million to the duo’s antitrust teams. The bill was co-sponsored by Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Victoria Spartz (R-IN).
“The Committee’s bipartisan investigation into digital markets uncovered overwhelming evidence of anti-competitive behavior that has severely affected consumers and small businesses. mentionned committee chairman Jerry Nadler.
“I am proud to join my colleagues, again in a bipartisan fashion, in bringing forward a set of laws 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. “
While this is an additional headache for Big Tech, its fight to kill the bills is not yet over with a very long chalk. It’s a small victory for a House committee scrutinizing some of the world’s biggest companies, although it’s an uphill battle from here to see it all down to the law books.
All six bills will now be votable in the House, and that hasn’t even been scheduled yet. Then it’s up to the Senate, where the odds of success become much more difficult due to Big Tech’s aggressive lobbying efforts and a highly partisan atmosphere. ®