New antitrust legislation targets Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google

The legislation could have significant impacts on the industry, even giving the Justice Department the green light to break up big companies.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Democrats and Republicans on the House Antitrust Subcommittee on Friday unveiled a package of antitrust bills targeting five technology giants: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. If passed, the legislation could have significant impacts on the industry, even giving the Justice Department the green light to break up big companies. 

One bill, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, would prohibit dominant platforms from owning different lines of business that create a conflict of interest. In other words, a company couldn't control multiple lines of business that give them an unfair advantage over competitors. 

In a summary of the legislation, the subcommittee gives an example that makes a clear reference to Google and YouTube. A search engine, the summary says, could not own a video service that it has incentives to favor in search results. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas).

Similarly, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act bars dominant platforms from using their market power to give an unfair advantage to their own products. It also prohibits certain discriminatory conduct -- the legislation's summary gives the example of a dominant firm preventing smaller companies from communicating with their own customers. This bill is sponsored by the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.),  and co-sponsored by Gooden.

Next, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act aims at large firms looking to buy up smaller rivals. It prohibits acquisitions of competitive threats by dominant platforms, as well as acquisitions that expand or entrench the market power of online platforms. It's sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the top Republican on the subcommittee. 

A summary of the bill says it is very limited in scope and would have prohibited only a small percentage of tech sector deals over the past decade.

Meanwhile, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act creates interoperability and data portability requirements for big tech. It would, for example, allow a small business to take its customer reviews from an e-commerce platform like Amazon.com to use on its own website. It would also allow users of a new social network to communicate with friends on a dominant platform like Facebook. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Penn.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah).

Lastly, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act would increase the filing fees for mergers for the first time in two decades. The money collected would help fund antitrust enforcement efforts at the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation could raise $135 million in new merger filing fee revenue in just one year, an increase of 50 percent of the total filing fees collected in 2020. 

This bill is sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.). Its companion legislation was already passed in the Senate as part of a large bill that provides $250 billion to fund a range of technological and scientific development. 

The five bills follow the antitrust subcommittee's 16-month investigation into competition in the digital marketplace. The panel's chairman, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), said in a statement Friday that right now, "unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy. They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work."

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the top Republican on the subcommittee, added, "Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have prioritized power over innovation and harmed American businesses and consumers in the process."

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