It's been out for almost two weeks now, but I just got to reading the House's antitrust report on big tech companies. It's real good. The target is the big 4, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.https://judiciary.house.gov/uploadedfiles/competition_in_digital_markets.pdf
Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price. These firms typically run the marketplace while also competing in it—a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another, or to engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.
The effects of this significant and durable market power are costly. The Subcommittee’s series of hearings produced significant evidence that these firms wield their dominance in ways that erode entrepreneurship, degrade Americans’ privacy online, and undermine the vibrancy of the free and diverse press. The result is less innovation, fewer choices for consumers, and a weakened democracy.
The intro goes on the describe the nature of the 4 monopolies and their anticompetitive practices. Acquisitions, selective policy enforcement, collusion, etc. And the effects they've had on different markets. All fine stuff, but its in recommendations where things get really good (page 20).
a. Restoring Competition in the Digital Economy
- Structural separations and prohibitions of certain dominant platforms from operating in adjacent lines of business;
- Nondiscrimination requirements, prohibiting dominant platforms from engaging in self preferencing, and requiring them to offer equal terms for equal products and services;
- Interoperability and data portability, requiring dominant platforms to make their services compatible with various networks and to make content and information easily portable between them;
- Presumptive prohibition against future mergers and acquisitions by the dominant platforms;
- Safe harbor for news publishers in order to safeguard a free and diverse press; and
- Prohibitions on abuses of superior bargaining power, proscribing dominant platforms from engaging in contracting practices that derive from their dominant market position, and requiring due process protections for individuals and businesses dependent on the dominant platforms.
b. Strengthening the Antitrust Laws
- Reasserting the anti-monopoly goals of the antitrust laws and their centrality to ensuring a healthy and vibrant democracy;
- Strengthening Section 7 of the Clayton Act, including through restoring presumptions and bright-line rules, restoring the incipiency standard and protecting nascent competitors, and strengthening the law on vertical mergers;
- Strengthening Section 2 of the Sherman Act, including by introducing a prohibition on abuse of dominance and clarifying prohibitions on monopoly leveraging, predatory pricing, denial of essential facilities, refusals to deal, tying, and anticompetitive self-preferencing and product
- design; and
- Taking additional measures to strengthen overall enforcement, including through overriding
- problematic precedents in the case law.
c. Reviving Antitrust Enforcement
- Restoring robust congressional oversight of the antitrust laws and their enforcement;
- Restoring the federal antitrust agencies to full strength, by triggering civil penalties and other relief for “unfair methods of competition” rules, requiring the Federal Trade Commission to engage in regular data collection on concentration, enhancing public transparency and accountability of the agencies, requiring regular merger retrospectives, codifying stricter prohibitions on the revolving door, and increasing the budgets of the FTC and the Antitrust Division; and
- Strengthening private enforcement, through eliminating obstacles such as forced arbitration clauses, limits on class action formation, judicially created standards constraining what constitutes an antitrust injury, and unduly high pleading standards.
Just straight going for the jugular. It's not legislation, but it is basically the anti-monopolist wish-list. I can't really bold anything in that list, because it's not one of those padded recommendations list, with one great item and a series of ok ones. Presumptive prohibitions against mergers and interoperability requirements are my personal favorites, though. The expanded recommendations section is worth reading.
Restore the Antimonopoly Goals of the Antitrust Laws
The antitrust laws that Congress enacted in 1890 and 1914—the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act,
and the Federal Trade Commission Act—reflected a recognition that unchecked monopoly power
poses a threat to our economy as well as to our democracy.2467 Congress reasserted this vision through
subsequent antitrust laws, including the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, the Celler-Kefauver Act of
1950, and the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976.2468
In the decades since Congress enacted these foundational statutes, the courts have significantly
weakened these laws and made it increasingly difficult for federal antitrust enforcers and private
plaintiffs to successfully challenge anticompetitive conduct and mergers.2469 Through adopting a
narrow construction of “consumer welfare” as the sole goal of the antitrust laws, the Supreme Court
has limited the analysis of competitive harm to focus primarily on price and output rather than the
competitive process2470—contravening legislative history and legislative intent.2471 Simultaneously,
courts have adopted the view that under-enforcement of the antitrust laws is preferable to overenforcement,
a position at odds with the clear legislative intent of the antitrust laws, as well as the view
of Congress that private monopolies are a “menace to republican institutions.”
2472 In recent decades,
the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have contributed to this problem by taking
a narrow view of their legal authorities and issuing guidelines that are highly permissive of market
power and its abuse. The overall result is an approach to antitrust that has significantly diverged from
the laws that Congress enacted.
In part due to this narrowing, some of the anticompetitive business practices that the
Subcommittee’s investigation uncovered could be difficult to challenge under current law.2473 In
response to this concern, this section identifies specific legislative reforms that would help renew and
rehabilitate the antitrust laws in the context of digital markets. In addition to these specific reforms, the
Subcommittee recommends that Congress consider reasserting the original intent and broad goals of
the antitrust laws, by clarifying that they are designed to protect not just consumers, but also workers,
entrepreneurs, independent businesses, open markets, a fair economy, and democratic ideals.2474
Maybe other have concerns about it, not that I've seen any, but my only question is how much of it survives to turning into actual legislation. Not much to complain about here. I don't like giant OPs, so I'll post highlights in subsequent posts.