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New antitrust bill aims to stop Big Tech from disadvantaging rivals


U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, speaks during a hearing on “Big Data, Big Questions: Implications for Competition and Consumers” in Washington, D.C., U.S., September 21, 2021.

Ting Shen | Pool | Reuters

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the chair of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, said Thursday she will soon introduce a major antitrust bill aimed at Big Tech alongside Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which shares a name and broad features with a bill introduced by House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., would prohibit dominant online platforms from engaging in discriminatory behavior. That could include wielding their gatekeeper power to disadvantage rivals or to preference their own products over others.

Cicilline’s version of the bill was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee this summer.

The bill would have profound implications for companies like Amazon, Apple and Google which all run their own marketplaces for products or information. Those companies have been accused of ranking their own products higher than rivals’ in an attempt to generate more profits for themselves.

Third-party sellers on Amazon, for example, have suspected the platform ranks its own similar private label products over their own. Travel or local search sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor have complained that Google unfairly lowers their links in search results in favor of prime placement of its Google Maps tool. The platforms have denied any misconduct and say their decisions are based on determinations about what will make up the best experience for users.

“Congress and tech companies have plenty of work to do to make the Internet better, safer, and healthier — but instead of doing that, this bill takes a hammer to tech products that consumers love,” wrote Adam Kovacevich, CEO of Chamber of Progress, a center-left group backed by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, among others. “Preventing Amazon from selling Amazon Basics and banning Google’s maps from its search results isn’t going to do anything to make the Internet better for families.”

Klobuchar said in a statement that the bill would grant more choice to consumers.

“As Big Tech has grown and evolved over the years, our laws have not changed to keep up and ensure these companies are competing fairly,” Grassley said in a statement. “Big Tech needs to be held accountable if they behave in a discriminatory manner. Our bill will help create a more even playing field and ensure that small businesses are able to compete with these platforms.”

So far, the bill includes Democratic co-sponsors Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Republican co-sponsors Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John Kennedy, R-La., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.

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