Democrats and Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee have introduced legislation that prohibits technology companies from owning a company that competes with other products or services on their platforms, among other measures.
Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. and other U.S. technology giants should sell or exit key companies under a swept antitrust legislation proposed by House lawmakers.
Democrats and Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee introduced legislation Friday that prohibits tech companies from owning a company 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 business and shopping.
The proposal could also threaten Google’s $ 23 billion display advertising activity. Google manages an exchange for advertising transactions and provides the technology used by website publishers and advertisers to buy and sell digital advertising, but also competes in the marketplace as a buyer and seller.
“Unregulated technology monopolies have too much power over our economy,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who led the panel’s 16-month investigation into the power of four giant technology platforms: Apple, Facebook Inc., Amazon and Google.
The panel concluded that the four companies are abusing their dominance in digital markets to exploit the competition. “Our agenda is to level the playing field and ensure that the richest, most powerful technological monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us,” Cicilline said.
“Big Tech has abused its dominance in the marketplace to crush competitors, censor speech, and control how we see and understand the world,” said Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado.
The bill is part of a package of legislation with bipartisan support aimed at giving antitrust enforcers new legal tools to deal with dominant technology companies that have been accused of nullifying competition in digital markets.
The measures will make it even more difficult for large technology companies to win approval for mergers and place additional restrictions on how they manage their platforms.
The legislative package has been praised by antitrust experts who say technology giants have used their power to isolate themselves from competitive threats and that existing law is not appropriate to challenge companies.
Charlotte Slaiman, director of competition policy at Public Knowledge in Washington, said the bills will go a long way toward opening up digital markets to competition.
“Now platforms can discriminate in ways where it is almost impossible to put competitive pressure on them,” he said. “If we take those control tools, then they won’t be able to protect their guardian positions and big new products will be able to have a good run.”
Technical trade groups have criticized the proposals as a threat to innovation and consumer choice. On Friday, the Information and Communications Industry Association asked the heads of the Judicial Committee to hold hearings on the bills before proceeding with them. 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 were aimed at specific companies while exempting others.
The bill targeting mergers would make it much more difficult for technology companies to win antitrust approval for businesses. It could mean that the acquisitions are illegal unless the companies can show that the agreement is not a threat to competition. It is a significant change to the existing law, which puts the burden on the government to prove that an agreement is anti-competitive. Under the proposal, the responsibility would pass to the companies and give the government an advantage in winning cases in court.
The proposal to ban some companies targets one of the main complaints about large technology companies: that their business models create inherent conflicts by managing vast markets on which other companies depend to reach consumers, while at the same time competing against them. to some of those companies with their own offers.
Cicilline has proposed legislation that imposes non-discrimination provisions on technical platforms that prevent it from putting competitors ’products and services at a disadvantage. It would also be forbidden to deny rivals access to their platforms.
One of the provisions in the Cicilline bill appears to be aimed at Apple and Google mobile operating systems. It prohibits platforms from making it difficult or impossible for users to uninstall software applications that have been preinstalled or to change the default settings that direct users to their products.