Congress unveils bills to dismantle tech giants

Lawmakers on Friday debuted bipartisan bills that could fundamentally change how Big Tech does business in the U.S.

Driving the news: If passed, the bills could force Apple to change how it runs its app store, break apart Amazon’s control of its marketplace and halt Facebook and Google from buying smaller rivals in an effort to remake the online ecosystem.

Why it matters: The legislation is the latest attempt by the government to curb the power of tech giants.

Details: House lawmakers have sponsored five bipartisan bills that represent the culmination of a years-long inquiry into the power of Big Tech.

  • Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, a Democratic aide said in a call with reporters, but there is widespread agreement about the need to tackle what lawmakers see as a competition crisis in the U.S. A Republican aide told reporters that Republicans agree the status quo isn’t working.

1. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, lead by Cicilline and Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Tex.), is meant to prevent dominant companies from unfairly disadvantaging rivals, such as preventing smaller companies from establishing their own prices for goods and services.

  • This bill, also supported by Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, lead Republican on the House Judiciary Antitrust subcommittee, and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) would make it difficult for Apple and Android to set prices and policies for their app stores that rivals have complained make them lose business and revenue.
  • It would also keep platforms like Amazon for advantaging their own products over those-party sellers.

2. The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, lead by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), bans major online players from buying competitive threats. The bill is also supported by Reps. Cicilline, Nadler, Buck and Gooden.

  • Lawmakers are aiming to stop the practice of Big Tech giants buying up rivals they see to be nascent threats, a major topic of discussion when tech CEOs testified before the committee last summer.
  • Companies would have to show that deals won’t hurt competition.

3. The Ending Platform Monopolies Act, lead by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) and supported by Reps. Cicilline, Nadler, Gooden and Buck, could break up Amazon by making it illegal for the company to both own the platform and offer competing services on it.

  • Google could also be forced to divest YouTube, as lawmakers say a search engine could not own a video service that it has incentives to favor in its results under the terms of the bill.

4. The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act, lead by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa), and supported Reps. Cicilline, Nadler, Buck and Burgess Owens (R-OH) is meant to increase competition by forcing companies to give consumers the ability to switch data between platforms.

  • The data portability concept is similar to the requirement that wireless companies allow consumers to keep their phone number if they decide to switch providers.

5. The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, lead by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Co) and supported by Rep. Buck along with Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), would give enforcement agencies more teeth and resources by requiring higher fees for mergers valued at $1 billion and more.

  • A companion bill by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) just passed the Senate.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Margaret Harding McGill

Author: axios