Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Friday introduced a law prohibiting tech companies from owning a business that competes with other products or services on their platforms, among other measures.
Such a provision, if passed, would prevent Amazon from selling its own branded products, Amazon Basics, for example, or Apple from offering Apple Music, or Google from providing search services specializing in travel, local businesses and retailers. purchases.
The proposal could also threaten Google’s $ 23 billion display advertising business. Google operates an exchange for advertising transactions and provides the technology used by website publishers and advertisers to buy and sell digital advertising, but it also competes in the marketplace as a buyer and seller.
“Unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who led the panel’s 16-month investigation into the power of four giant tech platforms: Apple, Facebook Inc., Amazon and Google.
The panel concluded that the four companies are abusing their dominance in digital markets to thwart competition. “Our program will level the playing field and ensure that the richest and most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us,” Cicillin said.
“Big Tech has abused its dominance in the market to crush its competitors, censor speech and control the way we see and understand the world,” said Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado.
The bill is part of a set of laws with bipartisan support aimed at giving antitrust authorities new legal tools to take on dominant tech companies that have been accused of crushing competition in digital markets.
The measures would also make it more difficult for large tech companies to get approval for mergers and place additional restrictions on how they manage their platforms.
The legislative package was praised by antitrust experts who said the tech giants had used their power to shield themselves from competitive threats and that the existing law was inadequate to challenge businesses.
Charlotte Slaiman, director of competition policy at Public Knowledge in Washington, said the bills would go a long way in opening up digital markets to competition.
“Now platforms can discriminate in a way where it’s almost impossible to put competitive pressure on them,” she said. “If we take these tools of control away from them, they will not be able to protect their positions as gatekeepers and new, quality products may be of fair value. “
Tech trade groups have criticized the proposals as a threat to innovation and consumer choice. The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Friday called on Judicial Committee leaders to hold hearings on the bills before moving forward. The group said the proposals represent the biggest change in competition policy since the original antitrust laws were passed in the late 19th century and target specific companies while exempting others.
The bill targeting mergers would make it much more difficult for tech companies to obtain antitrust approval for transactions. He would consider acquisitions illegal unless companies can prove that the deal does not pose a threat to competition. This is a significant change to existing law, which places the onus on the government to prove that an agreement is anti-competitive. Under the proposal, the onus would fall on businesses and give the government a head start in winning cases in court.
The proposal to ban certain companies targets one of the main complaints about large tech companies: that their business models create inherent conflicts by managing large markets that other companies depend on to reach consumers, while competing with some of those companies. companies with their own offerings.
Cicillin proposed legislation that would impose non-discrimination provisions on technology platforms, preventing them from disadvantaging competitors’ products and services. It would also prevent them from denying their rivals access to their platforms.
One of the provisions of Bill Cicillin appears to target the mobile operating systems of Apple and Google. It prohibits platforms from making it difficult or impossible for users to uninstall preinstalled software applications or change default settings that direct users to their products.