A group of congressional lawmakers is aiming at tech giants with their antitrust concerns. They proposed five anti-trust bills which could force big tech to overhaul or even break up the sector’s increasingly dominant business empires.
The package bills introduced by a bipartisan group in Congress on Friday, June 11, primarily targets Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The bills propose to create hurdles for the largest technology platforms to complete mergers and thus prevent them from owning companies that create conflicts of interest.
The bills follow a 16-month investigation conducted by the House Judiciary subcommittee on the monopoly case of the four aforementioned companies.
As a result of the investigation, a report of more than 450 pages was presented, which concluded that the four companies enjoy monopoly power that Congress and the authorities should control.
In this regard, changes in the antitrust laws and their application were recommended, which could result in important modifications for the large technology companies, such as the spin-off or separation of parts of their businesses or obstacles to the purchase of smaller companies.
The new bills introduced in the wake of the report could be tough for Amazon and Apple to cope with, as both run marketplaces that include their own products or apps that compete with third-party vendors that rely on their services.
One of the bills called the “American Online Innovation and Choice Act,” would curtail the ability of big tech companies to use their platforms to promote their own products ahead of competitors, a rule that could hit Apple and Google’s Android software for its app store policies, and Amazon for its huge third-party marketplace.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, the top Republican on the antitrust panel, said the legislation “breaks up Big Tech’s monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online, and fosters an online market that encourages innovation.”
Three other bills introduced in the same package aim to curb mergers between firms, which was one of the strategies used by Silicon Valley giants to grow and neutralize competition.
“The Platform Competition and Opportunities Act,” led by Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries, would prohibit major firms from buying smaller platforms that may pose competitive threats.
While “The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act,” led by Representative Joe Neguse, would give enforcement agencies the power and resources to demand higher fees on mergers valued at over $1 billion.
Now that the bills have been introduced, they must go through the Judiciary Committee who must vote on the bills before sending them to the House for approval and then to the Senate. Once the chain of approvals is achieved, then the President can sign the bills into law.
In principle, there appears to be significant bipartisan support for the package, which is bad news for the tech giants, who are also seeing their interests affected in other countries that are implementing similar measures against corporate abuse.
Although Democrats and Republicans have not agreed on many of the issues involved in this delicate matter, they do agree on the existence of the problem and have apparently managed to agree on certain strategic points to implement a package of measures that, if applied, could really generate a real change in the configuration of large technology companies.