The U.S. House Judiciary Committee this week approved half a dozen large bipartisan antitrust bills aimed at curbing Big Tech’s growing power and monopolizing it in some markets.
The panel, led by Jerry Nadler (D-NY), debated for nearly 30 hours on Wednesday and Thursday to advance on a comprehensive package of six bills. The proposed laws include all measures to prevent companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and others from dominating their sectors of the technology industry.
There was probably a lot of lobbying and other controversy behind and in the forefront about the exact wording of the package. For example, some lawmakers have expressed concern that Microsoft will eventually avoid certain provisions in the proposed acts that would otherwise affect Google and Apple. The changes were made -as removing “mobile” from “mobile operating system” in fine print-to ensure that no one is snatched.
After the bills were approved, Representative David Sicillin (D-RI), who chairs the subcommittee of the Antitrust Committee, tweeted:
After 29 hours and the efforts of Big Tech, the Judicial Commission of the House of Representatives adopted all six bills on our agenda for construction #AStrongerOnlineEconomy!! Big profit for consumers, workers and small business!
– David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) June 24, 2021
Here is a brief overview of what the committee has advanced to the next stage:
- The Act of Online Choice of American Choice and Innovation [PDF] deals with the gatekeepers who control the competition on digital platforms. It prevents a company from enforcing rules and regulations that unfairly disadvantage third parties who also offer products on that company’s platform or operating system. The bill is sponsored by Reps Cicilline (D-RI) and Lance Gooden (R-TX).
- Competition law and platform capabilities [PDF] pays attention to acquisitions. Under the bill, dominant companies are not allowed to attract competitors or buy shares and assets in competing companies. While this would stop something like Facebook from buying Instagram, there are fears that it may be a little too broad and prevent things like the startup’s innovative technology from reaching a mass market or audience by acquiring a player with good resources. It was sponsored by Reps Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Ken Buck (R-CO).
- The third bill on the list, the End Platform Monopolies Act [PDF], was the most controversial and passed with a narrow margin of 21-20. It ensures that corporations cannot unfairly sell their own product lines on their own platform. This is aimed at companies like Amazon, which extract sales data to create their own branded products, such as low-cost AmazonBasics equipment, whose chips are at a disadvantage for smaller businesses. He was supported by representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Lance Gooden (R-TX).
- Increase compatibility and competition by activating service switching or the Access Act [PDF] also passed. It ensures that platforms must be transparent about user data and allow third parties to easily switch to other services at minimal cost. House representatives Mary Scanlon (D-PA) and Burgess Owens (R-UT) sponsored the bill.
- The State Antitrust Enforcement Act [PDF] empowers state prosecutors to decide the location of lawsuits against federal courts. This aims to stop technology titans from transferring proceedings to courts that are perceived to be more friendly or sympathetic to megacorpora, which also increases the cost of litigation. Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) spearheaded the bill, which was sponsored by Reps Cicilline, Dan Bishop (R-NC), Burgess Owens (R-Utah) and Joe Neguse (D-CO).
- Finally, the Law on the modernization of fees for filing mergers [PDF] strengthens the ability of organizations such as the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to enforce antitrust laws by increasing fees by $ 5 billion + merger deals to fund more investigations, and appropriating $ 670 million to the duo’s antitrust teams. The bill was sponsored by representatives Joe Negusse (D-CO) and Victoria Spartz (R-IN).
“The Digital Markets Committee’s bipartisan investigation has revealed a wealth of evidence of anti-competitive behavior that has seriously affected consumers and small businesses.” said committee chairman Jerry Nadler.
“I am proud to rejoin my colleagues in a bipartisan way to introduce a package of legislation that will restore competition online and level the playing field for innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Our actions today to strengthen antitrust enforcement will ensure that our laws can finally and effectively meet the challenges of our modern economy.
Although this is an additional headache for Big Tech, his fight to kill the bills is not over with a very long chalk. This is a small victory for the House of Representatives committee, which is carefully examining some of the world’s largest companies, although from now on it is a difficult battle to understand everything down to the law books.
All six bills will now be voted on Parliament’s floor, and this has not even been scheduled yet. He then headed to the Senate, where the chances of success became much more difficult due to the aggressive lobbying efforts of Big Tech and a strong party atmosphere. ®