The sheer scale and speed of big technology success — think Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Facebook — has stoked concerns about the seemingly boundless power and influence.
And while their respective stock prices might be riding high, last week, 58 organizations sent a letter to the leadership of the United States House of Representatives urging swift passage of six bipartisan bills that would rein in the runaway power of the biggest, wealthiest and least accountable technology companies.
The latest push by public interest groups is meant to reinforce an October 2020 report by the House Committee on the Judiciary, which, after conducting 10 hearings and 240 interviews, and pouring over 1.3 million documents, concluded "as they exist today, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy. In recent years, each company has expanded and exploited their power of the marketplace in anticompetitive ways."
The six bills that went to markup would make it harder and more expensive for tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to complete mergers, prevent them from discriminating against other businesses on their own services, mandate data portability between services, make it easier for state attorneys general to choose where to bring antitrust cases and allow federal regulators to sue to break up companies that operate a dominant platform and own or operate a business that presents a clear conflict of interest.
The package of bills includes:
R. 3460, the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act, which would give state attorneys general the ability to stay in the court of their choosing when bringing a federal antitrust suit, rather than allow defendants to move a case to a more favorable venue;
R. 3816, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would prohibit anticompetitive discrimination, self-preferencing, and excluding competitors on the largest tech platforms.
R. 3825, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, which would give government enforcers the ability to sue to break-up or separate parts of the businesses that create conflicts of interest and give big companies an unfair advantage against potential competitors and business users;
R. 3826, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, which would prevent the most problematic mergers and acquisitions – including those that combine existing, potential, or nascent competitors, enhance, or maintain a company’s market power;
R. 3843, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, which would update merger filing fees and authorize funding for antitrust enforcement agencies; and
R. 3849, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act, which would allow users to take their data with them if they leave a platform and communicate across networks or platforms.
Since the release of the committee report, Apple unveiled major changes to its APP store. Until now, Apple took a cut of up to 30 percent for purchases of APPs and payments made inside APPs downloaded via the APP Store, which Google also does through its Play Store.
Apple agreed at the end of August to loosen payment restrictions on its APP Store, after a class-action lawsuit from small developers accused it of running a monopoly.
In the middle of August, Amazon began reaching out to third-party merchants to warn them that proposed antitrust reforms in Congress could limit their ability to hawk their wares on its marketplace.
But unlike the preemptive move from Apple, Amazon is under a much more focused lens from the U.S. government. Amazon is fighting antitrust pressure from multiple fronts.
In May, Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit accusing Amazon of abusing its market dominance through pricing contracts with third-party sellers.
Amazon also faces an antitrust probe by attorneys general in New York and California, as well as a Federal Trade Commission investigation into its business practices in retail and cloud computing.
In early August, the Federal Trade Commission re-filed a complaint against Facebook, accusing the social networking giant of illegal monopoly behavior in a suit that ultimately could force a spinoff of its popular Instagram and WhatsApp services.
In the revised complaint, the FTC adds detail to earlier allegations that Facebook grew its market power by buying up or bullying potential rivals.
AmChamUS supports legislative measures — whether actively pursued by either the House or Senate, or as an extension of judicial decisions — that foster healthy competition in markets around the country, which contribute to economic development and job creation.
AmChamUS does not support larger corporations taking coercive actions against small and medium sized U.S. companies — the backbones of the U.S. economy — that ultimately harm such businesses.
AmChamUS will continue to work with federal legislators to ensure any legislative or judicial measure is rooted in fact and has supporting evidence. AmChamUS does not believe in arbitrarily attacking U.S. businesses, which send the wrong signals to the economy, and distort the ability for federal agencies to take proper corrective actions later.