Big Tech Asks Congress To Delay Antitrust Bills Markup

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The association representing tech giants including Amazon, Facebook and Google, is calling on Congress to delay consideration of antitrust bills aimed squarely at its members.

The bill package was introduced less than two weeks ago.

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a markup for Wednesday, June 23, at which they plan to consider and potentially vote out of committee almost a dozen bills, including one whose name suggests why Big Tech is worried: The Ending Platform Monopolies Act.

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That bill would, for example, disallow Amazon from selling its own products in competition to third parties using its marketplace, or prevent Google from favoring certain content in search results.

Then there is the Platform Competition 5 and Opportunity Act of 2021, which would prohibit the purchase by a Big Tech platform of any other business unless it could prove that it is not purchasing a direct competitor.

Both Democrats and Republicans have called for tighter antitrust oversight of the biggest of Big Tech--AmazonAppleFacebook, and Google particularly--arguing they have essentially bought up to monopoly by buying smaller companies before they are large enough to raise red flags and that mammoth size and market power is a recipe for anticompetitive conduct.

Jason Oxman, president of tech lobby ITI, argued that the markup was premature and that Congress needed to better understand the potential impact of the legislation.  

“The bills before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee attempt to address complex issues that will have far-reaching implications on the U.S. economy and consumers," he said Tuesday (June 22). "Yet, these bills are moving through the legislative process without an understanding of the possible unintended consequences. Rather than proceeding with Wednesday's markup, we urge the Committee to provide additional time for stakeholder input to fully understand the bills’ impact to the U.S. economy.”

In a virtual speech to the Media Institute, Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro said the bills were being rushed through without a hearing or testimony because it was politically expedient and that they targeted the same companies that rescued the country during the pandemic.

He said it was a rush to regulate in a harmful way based on "weird" new antitrust theories. 

The other bills being considered: H.R. 3843, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021; H.R. 3460, the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act of 2021; H.R. 3849, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act of 2021 or the ACCESS Act of 2021; H.R. 3826, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021; H.R. 3816, the American Choice and Innovation Online Act.

Shapiro said he was concerned about all the bills, but singled out making it harder for companies to buy others, saying that will dry up venture capital and hurt entrepreneurs since one of the ways they get that capital is the potential of a buyout. He branded the package an "existential threat" to the country's competitiveness. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.