US lawmakers have introduced five bills aimed at limiting the power held by Big Tech companies. The bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers are targeting tech giants over antitrust and monopoly issues and the proposed legislation could force them to overhaul or even break up their increasingly dominant business empires. 

These Bills address topics including data, mergers, and the competitive behaviour of these companies – which could ultimately lead to them being forced to sell some assets. 

The bills have been drafted after a 16-month investigation into the powers of Amazon Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and now they could be forced to overhaul their business practices under a wide ranging  set of antitrust reforms. To become law, they must pass through the House of Representatives, the Senate and, finally, be signed by President Joe Biden.

The proposed legislation has support for Democrats and Republicans in the House of Congress and comprises the following Five Legislative Bills  

The American Choice and Innovation Online Act – this bill prevents companies from manipulating marketplaces to promote their own products. It would prevent companies that operate an e-commerce marketplace from giving products they sell via that marketplace an unfair advantage over items sold by independent merchants. The bill also is aimed at prohibiting operating system makers from providing preinstalled apps that can’t be removed by users.

The Platform Competition and Opportunities Act – this bill makes it harder for companies to buy and kill off competitors.

This is the biggest bill which aims to stops any major platform, defined as one with 500,000 or more monthly active users,  from acquiring other companies unless they can demonstrate “clear and convincing” evidence that they aren’t in competition with each other. In other words, it would stop deals like Facebook buying Instagram. Critics are already arguing that this definition is too vague, and would wind up preventing useful acquisitions.

The Ending Platform Monopolies Act – this bill prohibits Big Tech monopolies from selling products in marketplaces they control. The text of the bill specifies that an online platform operator covered under the legislation wouldn’t be a allowed to maintain a line of business if that business utilizes its platform “for the sale or provision of products or services.” That might require Apple to stop offering its own apps on the App Store or prevent Amazon from giving its in-house brands an advantage over those of outside sellers selling on its platform.

The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act – this bill makes it easier to leave a social media platform and take your data to a competitor. Its objective is to make it easier for consumers to switch between competing digital services by simplifying the process of moving data from one platform to another. To the same end, platform operators would be required to provide  “transparent, third-party-accessible interfaces (including application programming interfaces)” so users can easily download their data.

The Merger Filing Fee Modernisation Act – 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. If approved, it would require companies to pay bigger regulatory fees when making acquisitions worth $1 billion more. The vision is to use the additional income from those fees to provide regulatory agencies with more resources for enforcing competition laws.

The bills will need to be voted on and passed by the Judiciary Committee before making their way to the full House of Congress and would then need to be approved by the Senate before they could be signed into law by President Biden.

There is not unanimous support for the bills . “Bills that target specific companies, instead of focusing on business practices, are simply bad policy… and could be ruled unconstitutional,” Neil Bradley from the US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

Despite their resistance, the bipartisan support for the bill is a formidable signal to the industry. The sector has inspired rare collaboration between Democrats and Republicans, who both believe tech companies have come to hold too much power and worry about stagnating innovation.

Source: Cyber Security Intelligence