House members on Friday introduced five antitrust bills — including one that would force Amazon.com Inc. and others to essentially split into two companies or shed their private-label products — in the most aggressive action yet by federal lawmakers to rein in the market influence of Big Tech.
Another bill, called “American Innovation and Choice Online Act,” targets the ability of companies, presumably Amazon, Apple, and Google parent Alphabet, to leverage their online platforms to favor their own products over competitors.
The “Ending Platform Monopolies Act,” which proposes structural separation, in part says, “It shall be unlawful for a covered platform operator to own or control a line of business, other than the covered platform, when the covered platform’s ownership or control of that line of business gives rise to an irreconcilable conflict of interest.” The Wall Street Journal first reported on the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
“A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, Choice,” also includes two bills that address make it more difficult for dominant platforms to gobble up competitive threats via mergers and acquisitions. A fifth bill promotes competition online by “lowering barriers to entry and switching costs for businesses and consumers through interoperability and data portability requirements.”
“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., chairman of the House’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, said in a statement announcing the bipartisan legislation led by Democrats. “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work. Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure the wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.”
While the bills are an outgrowth of bipartisan support and a growing chorus of unsettled consumers and privacy activists, several pro-business organizations voiced their alarm at the tone and severity of the legislation.
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