Technology Groups Speak Out Against Proposed Antitrust Package

Tech execs have begun to speak out against a new package of proposed antitrust bills in Congress.

Technology Groups Speak Out Against Proposed Antitrust Package
Photo of Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in 2018, used with permission.

June 15, 2021— The package of proposed antitrust bills proposed in Congress last Friday is drawing criticism from technology executives who claim the bills will have unintended consequences and destroy certain products that consumers love.

The five proposed bills follow an investigation concluded last year by the House Antitrust Subcommittee which accused Big Tech firms of harming consumer welfare and employing anti-competitive practices.

The bills aim to prevent companies from manipulating marketplaces to promote their own products. They make it harder for media platforms to buy and kill competitors. They mandate that platforms and firms collecting consumer data make it easier to leave and take the data to competitors. And they give the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission extra resources to police monopoly power.

However, the bills have already drawn sharp criticism from technological executives, arguing that the bills would carry with them unintended consequences and damage American interest and harm consumer experience.

The bills’ unintended consequences

“As currently drafted, the package of antitrust bills introduced in the House Judiciary Committee would be a disaster for America innovators and consumers,” Gary Shapiro, CEO and president of Consumer Technology Association, said in a press release. “If signed into law, the bills would cause irreparable harm to small businesses and startups and put the US at a competitive disadvantage against China.”

Shapiro also claims the bills would restrict popular features currently enjoyed by millions of Americans. He says they would put an end to Amazon Prime free shipping, YouTube videos in Google search results, preinstalled iPhone apps, and many more.

The Consumer Technology Association is a trade organization that conducts research and lobbies for policy reform, representing technology companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.

Law360 reported last Friday that Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress, a tech policy group sponsored by some large tech companies, said that the bills would ban things like Amazon Basics batteries, Apple’s Find my Phone feature, and Google Maps appearing in Google searches, which he said would “spark a consumer backlash.”

“And strangely, these bills could make it harder, not easier, for platforms to remove hate speech and disinformation,” Kovacevich said. “Instead of focusing on helping families, these proposals inexplicably target a bunch of technological conveniences that most people really like.”

Jessica Melugin, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Technology and Innovation, called the proposals “regulation at its most economically depressing.”

“[The bills] reflect fundamental misunderstanding of how platforms create value for consumers, how market leaders compete with each other and the incentives necessary to keep innovative companies churning out useful new products and service for customers,” Melugin said.

“Taken together, these proposed regulations would compromise the U.S. as a global tech leader, strain an already struggling U.S. economy, and hurt American consumers.

Proponents of the bill maintain their position

Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, said in a statement “unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy.

“They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work,” Cicilline said. “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.”

In a letter sent to the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, the Consumer Federation of America’s director of research, Mark Cooper, said, “The industry has taken the position that any constraint on its actions will end the digital revolution and dramatically increase costs for consumers. The Consumer Federation of America emphatically disagrees.

“The House Judiciary Committee and Antitrust Subcommittee is doing exactly what Congress should do to reboot needed oversight of the dominant incumbent digital platforms,” Cooper added in a press release. “The committees have identified general practices that must be reformed, given concrete recommendations, and provided increased resources for implementing these needed actions.”

Popular Tags