(TDI)Big Tech Firms in Trouble as US Lawmakers Announce Bills Targeting Anti-Trust & Anti-Competitive Behaviour

Going Too Far

In 2019, Bill Gates stated that it was time for the government to step in and regulate big tech companies. With the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google dominating our everyday lives, some would say it’s a good thing. Cases of anti-trust and anti-competitive behaviour have hounded US tech companies for a long time, and because of this, lawmakers in Washington D.C and around the world have come to the conclusion that issues such as privacy and cyberbullying are going too far, and need to be curbed.

So when U.S. lawmakers introduced five bills designed to limit the power held by big tech companies last week, it got applause from many people.

The bills, drafted after a 16-month investigation into the powers of Apple Amazon, Google and Facebook, highlight the problems like mergers, data and the competitive behaviour of these companies. Eventually, the bills could bring about a situation where the big boys have to sell some assets.

Unfortunately, unanimous support for the bills is lacking:

“Bills that target specific companies, instead of focusing on business practices, are simply bad policy… and could be ruled unconstitutional,” said Neil Bradley from the US Chamber of Commerce.

The bills will be referred to the House Judiciary Committee before being sent to the House floor. In order for the bills to become law, however, they must pass through the House of Representatives, the Senate and, ultimately, be signed off by President Joe Biden.

Co-sponsor of the bills and Democratic chair of the Antitrust panel, David Cicilline, tweeted a breakdown of the bills which, he said, will, “strengthen our laws to hold tech monopolies accountable, and build #AStrongerOnlineEconomy”.

The Bill

Already the bills have obtained backing from both Democrats and Republicans:

• The American Choice and Innovation Online Act — this bill prevents companies from manipulating marketplaces to promote their own products

• The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021 — this bill makes it harder for companies to buy and kill off competitors

• The Ending Platform Monopolies Act — this bill prohibits Big Tech monopolies from selling products in marketplaces they control

• The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act of 2021 — this bill makes it easier to leave a social media platform and take your data to a competitor

• The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021 — this bill allows the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission the resources they need to police monopoly power, at no cost to taxpayers

According to Robert Weisman, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen:

“Big Tech’s unchecked growth and dominance have led to incredible abuses of power that have hurt consumers, workers, small businesses and innovation,” said Robert Weisman, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen… That unchecked power ends now.”

While Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic Representative and bill sponsor, said: “From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, it is clear that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care.”

A 16-month investigation by the Antitrust Subcommittee led to a 449-page report. In it, the big tech companies were found guilty of charging high fees, forcing smaller customers into unfavourable contracts and using “killer acquisitions” to put strategic rivals at a disadvantage. Several of the companies concerned are also dealing with lawsuits regarding their violation of competition law and anti-competitive behaviour. Coincidentally, many of these accusations form the basis for the proposed bills.

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