The package of five antitrust bills presented on Friday by a bipartisan group in Congress – targeting Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet – would make it harder for the biggest tech platforms to close mergers and prevent them from owning shares. companies that create conflicts of interest.
Two of the new bills could be particularly difficult for Amazon and Apple to navigate, as they both operate marketplaces that include their own products or applications that compete with external sellers who depend on their services.
Called “Ending Platform Monopolies Act,” sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) and “The American Innovation and Choice Online Act” sponsored by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), the reforms could potentially shatter the behemoths of technology by suppressing conflicts of interest between their different industries.
The second bill introduced by Representative Cicillin would reduce the ability of large tech companies to use their platforms to promote their own products before those of their competitors – a rule that could criticize both Apple and Google’s Android software for their policies. app store, and Amazon in its huge third-party marketplace.
“Unregulated technology monopolies have too much power over our economy,” Cicillin said. “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise consumer prices and put people out of work. Our program will level the playing field. ”
Representing Ken Buck (R. – Colo.), The top Republican on the antitrust panel, the legislation “breaks the monopoly power of Big Tech to control what Americans see and say online, and fosters an online marketplace that encourages innovation ”.
The other three bills seek to curb the mergers that the Silicon Valley giants have used to develop and neutralize competition. “The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act” led by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), would prohibit major online players from buying competitive threats, while “The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act” led by Representative Joe Neguse ( D-Co) would give enforcement agencies powers and resources by charging higher fees for mergers valued at $ 1 billion or more.
Meanwhile, “The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act” led by Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa) aims to increase competition by forcing companies to give consumers the ability to switch data between platforms. -forms.
The judiciary committee will need to vote on bills before they reach the House for approval and then the Senate. Only then can bills be enacted by the president.
The bipartisan support for the package is bad news for the tech titans, who are said to have too much power over the industry.
The tech giants did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday, but reports that the invoices were arriving had already caused a pullback.
“Adopting the European regulatory model would make it harder for US tech companies to innovate and compete both here and around the world,” Geoffrey Manne, president and founder of the International Center for Law & Law, told CNBC. Economics, who added that the group had received funding from Google in the past.
In an article published on Medium earlier this week, Adam Kovacevich, chief executive of Chamber of Progress, an advocacy group backed by the Five Tech Giants, argued that consumers would miss out on “amenities” such as free delivery of Amazon Prime and cross-posting between Facebook and Instagram, as part of these proposals.
“With all the challenges our country faces – pandemic recovery, crumbling infrastructure, racial equity and climate change – it’s a little strange that some policymakers think our biggest problem that deserves to be addressed is… Amazon Basics batteries, ”Kovacevich wrote.
The antitrust reforms follow a 16-month investigation by the House Judiciary Subcommittee into anti-competitive issues on the four tech giants that ended last year.
At the time, the 450-page investigation report found that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google held monopoly power and that antitrust laws needed to be revised to better fit today’s digital media landscape. ‘hui. The report says major changes for large tech companies may have to split up or separate parts of their businesses or make them more difficult to buy from small businesses.
While Democrats and Republicans disagreed on some of the solutions, they found common ground on so-called antitrust issues and agreed that reform was needed to spark competition.
Amazon has been criticized by lawmakers for allegedly using data from third-party companies to develop and promote Amazon-branded products such as “Amazon Basics”.
Amazon’s private label is a significant part of the tech giant’s business, with 158,000 products from dozens of different brands, according to the report.
The company also has significant business lines in everything from streaming entertainment via Prime Video and e-readers via Kindle to voice-activated assistants via Echo and doorbell cameras via Ring. Unraveling its various subsidiaries would probably be a long and costly process.
The Ending Platform Monopolies Act is touted as a technology-world equivalent of the historic Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which separated commercial and investment banking, according to the Journal.
The potential legislative battle comes less than a month before Jeff Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO in July, handing over the reins to web services chief Andy Jassy, then soaring into space on a rocket Blue Origin shortly thereafter.
The United States isn’t the only country where Jassy is expected to wrestle with regulators.
On Thursday, the Journal reported that a European Union privacy monitor had proposed a fine of $ 425 million for Amazon’s data collection practices. The fine would be the largest to date under a strict data privacy law the EU enacted in 2018.