House Judiciary Committee Discusses Breakup of Big Tech Companies
24 Jun 2021
Video source: YouTube, CNBC Television
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee took up its most aggressive of six antitrust bills Thursday, discussing a measure to require platforms, like Amazon.com Inc, to sell lines of business they run on their platforms if they also compete against them.
Representative Pramila Jayapal, a sponsor, argued that previous tough antitrust action, like a 1998 lawsuit against Microsoft Corp, "created the space for the great renaissance of technology that later drove a lot of the U.S. economy."
Representative David Cicilline, chair of the antitrust subcommittee, said the bill forced companies to choose between operating a platform or operating businesses that compete on the platform. "Google, Amazon and Apple each favor their own products in search results, giving themselves an unfair advantage over competitors," he said.
There has been opposition to this measure and others from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Amazon, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google.
Some Republicans, and some California Democrats, have expressed concern about the toughest legislation in the package.
Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican, opposed the bill since it failed to address his concern about stifling conservative voices, which he termed the "real concerns."
Asked about the package of six bills, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, herself a California Democrat, said there was concern in both parties about the tech giants. "This legislation attempts to address that in the interest of fairness, in the interest of competition, and the interest of meeting the needs of people whose privacy, whose data and all the rest is at the mercy of these tech companies," she said.
In extended debate, which began midmorning Wednesday and stretched into early Thursday, lawmakers approved five antitrust bills, three of them aimed at Big Tech.
It approved bills to prohibit platforms like Amazon from disadvantaging rivals who use their platform and to require big tech companies contemplating mergers to show that they are legal, rather than requiring antitrust enforcers to prove that they are not. It further approved a measure to require platforms to allow users to transfer their data elsewhere.
The committee also voted to increase the budgets of the agencies enforcing antitrust law. A companion measure has passed the Senate. And it passed a bill to ensure that antitrust cases brought by state attorneys general remain in the court they select.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Jonathan Oatis.