US Congress introduces 5 bills to reign in tech giants

Published on 13 Jun 2021

A package of 5 bills was introduced in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. All five bills aim to reform anti-trust laws and will significantly impact tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google. These bills would first need to be voted on by the Judiciary Committee, then pass a vote in the House of Representatives, then be approved by the Senate before they can be signed into law by the President.   

Reform of anti-trust laws to reign in the power of tech giants seems to be one of the few areas of bipartisanship left on capitol hill. The bills have support from both Democrats and Republicans. If passed, they would make it harder for dominant tech companies to complete mergers and acquisitions, and prohibit them from owning businesses that create conflicts of interest. They are the most comprehensive reforms to anti-trust laws in the United States and would force Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google to overhaul how they are structured and conduct their businesses. Below is a quick introduction to each of the five bills:

See also: Facebook is working on a smart watch, AR controller hybrid

5 Anti-trust reform bills introduced in the US Congress

1. Ending Platforms Monopolies Act: 

Lawmakers have expressed concern in the past that Amazon and Apple, have a conflict of interest because they sell their own products or apps on their platforms. This could act as an incentive to undermme competition. This bill would make it unlawful for platforms to own or operate a business that presents conflict of interest. The act would only apply to platforms that have 50 million or more monthly active U.S users and a market cap over $600 billion. This means that Apple that promotes is own apps and software solutions on the Apple App Store would need to spin off another business to handle such products.

2. Platform Competition and Opportunity Act:

Currently the burden of proof lies on the government to prove that acquisitions by a dominant tech platform will reduce competition and hence block the deal. The passing of this act would move the burden of proof for mergers and acquisitions to the companies. They will need to prove that their acquisitions are not anti-competitive and are lawful. 

3. Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act:

The access bill would make it compulsory for dominant platforms to comply with certain standards of data portability and interoperability. This will make it easier for consumers to take their data with them if they ever decide to move to another platform. The thought process is that businesses will be incentivized to provide better service because users can more easily move to another platform and loss of data will not be prohibitive. 

4. Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act:

A similar bill was recently introduced in the Senate with the same name. The Senate version of the bill passed on Tuesday, along with a larger bill that allocated $250 billion to improve tech manufacturing and to reduce America's reliance on Chinese manufacturers. If the bill passes, companies would have to pay a higher feed to the Federal Trade Comission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division to notify them about large mergers. The aim is to raise more funds for the two agencies.

5. American Choice and Innovation Online Act:

The fifth bill aims to improve competition in digital marketplaces. It would stop dominants platforms from giving preferential treatment or advantages to their own products or services. It would also make it unlawful for these platforms to engagement in discriminatory behavior against competitors like cutting of a competitor that uses the platform from other services provided by the platform. It wold also stop dominant platforms from using data collected on their services to improvethier products that is not publically available. For example, Amazon uses data and information about 3rd party sellers on its platforms to decide what products to manufacture and sell. 

Last year a subcommittee of the House Judiciary completed an investigation into antitrust practices by Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. The subcommittee had found that the four tech giants did hold monopoly power and that antitrust laws in the United States needed to be revised in order to address the unique challenges of competition in digital marketplaces.

Global impact of such regulations

The impact of these regulations would not be limited to the United States but would impact how these companies operate world wide. Currently the EU is considered to be the global regulator for tech companies. In 2018, the EU introduced new data protection rules known as GDPR for member countries. The regulations would give EU citizens greator control over what data tech giants were allowed to collect, how the information would be stored and how it could be used. Platforms had to make changes to comply with these new regulations, however, these changes were made at a global scale because of operational reasons. It would be difficult for these companies to change how their services work from region to region. Hence, the regulatory changes in the EU resulted in changes to how the businesses operate globally. A similar impact will be felt if the proposed bills become law. The passing of the EU's GDPR also led to similar legislation being passed in Australia and Brazil. The EU is also currently considering regulations referred to as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. These new legislations are meant to force tech giants to take responsibility for content on their platforms and ensure fairer market competition. 

Reports have come out that Jeff Bezos will helm an unprecedented lobbying push against the proposed bill. Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft will also make their own efforts to quash or soften the impact of the bills. Subscribe to for more information and news from the world of technology.

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