Democratic and Republican congressmen introduce five bills that target Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. They propose a radical revision of the antitrust laws
Legislators of the United States House of Representatives have presented this Friday a legislative package with five bills supported by Democrats and Republicans that if successful will force Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to reshape their business practices, as reported by CNBC . Hours earlier, The Wall Street Journal advanced that the measures that congressmen were preparing could require Amazon and other tech giants to split into two companies or divest parts of their businesses.
The bills presented, which represent the largest reorganization of the antitrust law of the country in many years, make it harder for the big tech complete acquisitions such as those carried out Facebook to cement its dominance in the world of social networks and prohibit them from owning businesses that present clear conflicts of interest. The objective? curtail the power of the world’s largest tech companies and end the supposed monopolistic positions of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple, which, according to the congressmen involved, wipe out competition and stifle innovation.
Among the new bills is the so-called “Law for the termination of platform monopolies”, which establishes that “it will be illegal for a platform operator to own or control a business line, beyond the platform itself, when doing so may cause an inevitable conflict of interest ”. This law could have a special impact on Amazon, Apple and Google since all three operate platforms that include their own products that compete with those of other sellers or developers who depend on their services. Amazon, for example, has come under fire for using seller data on its platform to promote and sell its own products.
The new legislation would only affect companies that have a market capitalization of more than $ 600 billion and that have more than 500,000 active users per month, according to the WSJ. And these conditions point directly to the so-called big tech , Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. Microsoft would also meet those points, but the company led by Satya Nadella has not been investigated in recent times by the US competition authorities.
Two other bills presented would prohibit dominant platforms from giving their products and services advantages over those of competitors on their platforms and shift the burden of proof in acquisition cases to big tech to demonstrate that their purchases are legal ( and not that it has to be the Government that shows that they will reduce competition). The ultimate goal of this third law would be to prevent large technology companies from buying potential competitors. Congressmen have criticized Facebook being allowed to buy WhatsApp and Instagram, allowing it to further consolidate its power on social media.
The fourth and fifth bills would force mainstream platforms to maintain certain data portability and interoperability standards, which would make it easier for consumers to move their data from one platform to another, and would make it more expensive to apply for certain acquisitions, since It would increase the fees companies pay to notify the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s Antomonopoly Division of major mergers to raise funds for those agencies.
After the news broke, the shares of Amazon, Facebook and Google hardly suffered. Amazon titles just fell 0.38%, Facebook 0.63% and Google 0.35%. Apple’s titles are even slightly up 0.82%. The proposed legislation will have to pass the Democratic-controlled House as well as the Senate, where they will likely need substantial Republican support.
“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” said David Cicilline, Democratic chairman of the antomonopoly subcommittee in the US House of Representatives on Friday. He also added that the tech giants “are in a position. unique to picking winners and losers, destroying small businesses, raising consumer prices and putting people out of work. “
The present measures come after the top executives of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) were questioned last summer by Congress for possible abuse of a dominant position in different digital markets: in social networks and online advertising Facebook, Google search and digital advertising, Amazon online retail, and Apple mobile operating systems.
According to a report by the congressional committee led by Democrats, and collected by the technology magazine InterArtix, these companies “abuse their power by charging exorbitant fees, imposing oppressive contractual terms and extracting valuable data from the people who depend on them.”
The arguments of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook and Sunday Pichai, CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google , who last summer invoked the American dream, their role as large employers and engine of the economy and the threat of Chinese competition to maintain that its practices are legal does not appear to have caught on with US lawmakers.
Congressmen acknowledge that big tech has brought great benefits to society by challenging the status quo themselves , but many believe that its current dominance comes at a high price “having become a type of monopoly that we last saw in the era. of the oil and railroad tycoons ”. They say they run the market while competing with it, and set the rules for others.
That the five bills have the support of Democrats and Republicans shows the concern and concern that both parties feel towards the power that these tech giants are amassing.
Enrique Dans, professor at the IE Business School, points out in his blog that the regulation of technology giants is an extremely complex issue, because often, controlling the abuses carried out by these companies implies reducing the options they present to their users, ” something that can make the laws that promote it unpopular. ” In this sense, he adds that users tend to have a mentality more focused on the short term and functionality than on competitiveness or the long-term competitive sustainability of industries, “something that, on occasions, calls into question the decisions of regulators “.
Dans recalls that the idea of regulating big tech in a more rigorous way appeared in Joe Biden’s electoral program, and dismisses how the president of the United States has incorporated academics and activists in favor of it into his cabinet, but he especially emphasizes the support found among the Republican ranks, which is further proof of the current in favor of a worldwide regulation, as shown by actions also taken by the EU and recently by the Chinese Government.
“If we add this trend to the recent G7 agreement that will try to curb the aggressive tax optimization processes that these companies , as well as many other multinationals from other industries, carry out, we have an outlook that appears quite stormy for those empires formed. in the last decade of the last century and the first two of the present “. And, according to this professor, “it is very possible that this is going to be a very good thing, both for users and for competition and innovation.”