Last October, the US Congress tabled a violent report on competition in digital markets. This 449-page document got Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple heavily involved in accusing them of abusing a dominant position in their respective sectors. The text also called for strict regulation to be introduced to avoid monopoly formation.
A few months later and after some drafts of the project, it seems that the time has come for action. According to politics, Members of the House of Representatives are preparing to propose a package of five laws aimed at prohibiting tech giants from discriminating against their rivals.
In particular, this is a real political test to see if the two major Democratic and Republican parties can speak with one voice on this issue. If this is the case, GAFA has to take care of it, but if there is any discrepancy it should be able to avoid the worst.
The American media goes into detail about the various measures that could be announced. Regarding conflicts of interest, a project should allow the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to take legal action to dismantle the affected platforms. Our colleagues believe that this text could specifically target Amazon, which would take advantage of its dominant position in e-commerce to promote its own items.
Another aspect should force large online platforms to set up interfaces so that their users can easily transfer their data to other services. It’s a long-requested element of some alternative social networks. We know that quitting an application is not convenient when you have to give up all contacts and many other conveniences.
The principle of non-discrimination would also be set in stone. The aim is to prevent tech giants from slowing down their competitors, for example through self-reference or by promoting their products and services. Here Apple and the App Store would be in the crosshairs or even Amazon with its marketplace.
The legislature also wants to be active in the case of mergers. The idea would therefore be to prohibit large platforms from acquiring potential competitors in order to eliminate competition. We are also thinking of the takeover of Instagram and WhatsApp by Facebook for the social networks.
Finally, MPs want to increase funding for US antitrust authorities. These are sometimes understaffed and essential for managing acquisitions by large technology companies.
Combating Gafa lobbying
It remains to be seen how those affected will react. In any case, the fact that numerous laws are put forward at the same time corresponds to a clearly asserted strategy. Last March, Democratic MP David Cicilline used it to explain his fear of the tech giants’ influence in creating these devices:
If you look at how these tech companies have armed themselves with powerful lobbying and the money they are investing in Washington, it is supposed to prevent any change in the current ecosystem that will benefit them enormously. You have literally billions and billions of reasons to try to protect the current system that is producing profits that are not seen in the real world.
So he worked in secret with his colleagues to introduce several laws at the same time and thus curb the influence of companies. In any case, the legislative work is far from over and we know that the Senate is also working on its own project on the initiative of the Democrat Amy Klobuchar.