The US House Judiciary Committee held a major hearing regarding big tech antitrust concerns in the summer of 2020. The hearing included testimonials from Apple’s Tim Cook, Alphabet/Google’s Sundar Pichai, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The antitrust subcommittee met again today to discuss how legislation that could be proposed as early as this spring could intend to reform big tech.
The recent hearing, titled “Reviving Competition, Part 1: Proposals to Address Gatekeeper Power & Lower Barriers to Entry Online” was the first in a series of three hearings directed at renewing antitrust laws for the digital era.
House lawmakers highlight three ways to keep Big Tech antitrust concerns in check
“Mark my words. Change is coming. Laws are coming,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island and the subcommittee’s chairman, to kick off the hearing. This latest event was the subcommittee’s first tech antitrust hearing of the year following a hearing in July last year when the CEOs of some of the biggest tech companies in the world appeared virtually before the group. The hearing was a result of a months-long investigation into the market dominance of tech giants.
As detailed by The Verge, the three broad aims for bills we could see proposed later this spring will be directed at:
Data interoperability and portability: Users should be able to take their data elsewhere with ease. Example: Think about how you can move your phone number between carriers. Before the 1996 Telecommunications Act, that wasn’t always an option!
Nondiscrimination: Basically, a dominant platform shouldn’t be able to preference its own products over those of its competitors.
Structural remedies: Breaking apart different lines of business or platforms under one company.
The non-discrimination aspect will be the most dangerous for Apple as the tech giant also faces antitrust allegations over the App Store, Sign in with Apple, Apple Pay, and more. It will be interesting to see how this will impact Apple – if the bill is passed.
While the first bills focused on big tech legislation could arrive soon, it will take some time before they are voted on. The US House antitrust subcommittee will have two more hearings before the first legislation is initially filed.
In related news, the new chairman of the U.S Senate Judiciary antitrust Subcommittee, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar submitted a bill earlier this month that is aimed at changing the country’s antitrust laws by allocating more funds to investigating agencies and by increasing their penalty power to fine violators up to 15% of their U.S revenues.