Over a week ago, US lawmakers announced huge bipartisan bills aimed at huge tech companies. Many outlets reported that Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google were directly targeted in the new set of bills that would put more restrictions on corporations’ monopolistic tactics such as acquiring competitors. Naturally, these corporations are widely against the new bills and have begun executing their lobbying campaigns against the bills. The following is an excerpt from New York Times
Executives, lobbyists, and more than a dozen think tanks and advocacy groups paid by tech companies have swarmed Capitol offices, called and emailed lawmakers and their staff members, and written letters arguing there will be dire consequences for the industry and the country if the ideas become law,”
The NYT reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook personally called Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress to pushback against the bills. Cook warned Pelosi that the bills were “rushed” and, if passed, they would “hurt consumers by disrupting the services that power Apple’s lucrative iPhone” according to the NYT, citing five people who knew about the conversations. According to one of the people, Pelosi asked Cook to “identify specific policy objections to the measures,” Speaker Pelosi reportedly pushed back against Cook when he asked if the bills could be further delayed.
CNBC reports that Google’s VP of government affairs Mark Isakowitz warns that the bills would “require [Google] to degrade [its] services and prevent [it] from offering important features used by hundreds of millions of Americans.” Izakowits also warns that the bills could “raise serious privacy and security concerns,” and that they would “damage the way small businesses connect with consumers,”.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s VP of public policy warned about “significant negative impacts” that Amazon consumers would face, as well as the small and medium sized businesses that sell on the platform. A Facebook spokesperson told CNBC that antitrust bills are meant to “promote competition and protect consumers, not punish successful American companies,”. Facebook’s spokesperson also tried to explain that the bills undermine “competition with within the tech sector, including competition from foreign companies such as TikTok, WeChat, and Alibaba.” It’s worth noting these are all Chinese companies.
The new bills represent the modernization of antitrust laws that were designed to make it difficult for companies to engage in monopolistic behaviors. These antitrust laws are severely outdated and should be updated for modern times where technology, data collection, and digital retail are all such a huge part of society.
Here’s an overview of each of the five bills:
- Ending Platform Monopolies Act: would make it unlawful for a platform with more than 50 million monthly active users and market cap of over $600 billion to own or operate a business that presents a conflict of interest. This bill would mean that Amazon would not be allowed to sell self-branded products like Amazon Basics.
- American Choice and Innovation Online Act: Would prohibit a platform from discriminatory behavior such as Apple favoring its own Music, TV, and Podcast services over competitors.
- Platform Competition and Opportunity Act:: Would make it so that dominant platforms looking to make acquisitions of other companies would need to prove their acquisitions are lawful rather than the government needing to prove that their acquisitions would lessen competition. This bill would make it harder for high-profile acquisitions to go through such as T-Mobile and Sprint.
- Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act: This would require dominant platforms to adhere to a standard for data portability and interoperability, making it easier for consumers to take their data to other platforms.
- Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act: This would simply raise the fees that companies need to pay to advise to the FTC and Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division for large mergers to raise money for both agencies.
The bills still need to be voted on by the Judiciary Committee before arriving to the House of Representatives. The Senate would also need to approve the bills before they can be signed to laws by President Biden.
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