NEWS9 October 2020

US congress calls for tech industry antitrust reforms

News North America Privacy Technology

US – The US congress has called for an end to technology company monopolies and for customers to be able to transfer data more easily between platforms such as Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Amazon logo on smartphone

The congressional antitrust subcommittee’s report Investigation of competition in digital markets, which was published this week, recommends increasing interoperability and data potability, and to make their networks compatible with rival platforms.

“Structural separation” and prohibitions of certain platforms from expanding into other industries should also be considered, the report says.

Dominant platforms would be prevented from further acquisitions and mergers, as well as restrictions to prevent abuses of superior bargaining power, if the report recommendations are taken forward. It would also offer protections to individuals or organisations that are dependent on tech monopolies.

“Robust” congressional oversight of antitrust law enforcement would be restored, the report recommends, and federal antitrust agencies strengthened.

The report says: “In the absence of adequate privacy guardrails in the US, the persistent collection and misuse of consumer data is an indicator of market power online.

“In the absence of genuine competitive threats, dominant firms offer fewer privacy protections than they otherwise would, and the quality of these services has deteriorated over time. As a result, consumers are forced to either use a service with poor privacy safeguards or forego the service altogether.”

In a blog post, Amazon criticised the report’s recommendations as “flawed thinking”.

It says: “All large organisations attract the attention of regulators, and we welcome that scrutiny. But large companies are not dominant by definition, and the presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behaviour is simply wrong.

“For consumers, the result would be less choice and higher prices. Far from enhancing competition, these uninformed notions would instead reduce it.”

Apple, Facebook and Google have also heavily criticised the report’s recommendations.