Sen. Warner joins Bipartisan Legislation From Klobuchar, Grassley, and Colleagues to Rein in Big Tech
Oct 18 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced bipartisan legislation to restore competition online by establishing commonsense rules of the road for dominant digital platforms to prevent them from abusing their market power to harm competition, online businesses, and consumers.
Since announcing the legislation last week, support for the bill has grown. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) has joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) as an original cosponsor, and companies including Spotify, Roku, Match Group, and DuckDuckGo have endorsed the bill.
“As dominant digital platforms – some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen – increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed,” said Klobuchar. “Support for this bill continues to grow because American consumers, workers, and businesses know that it is past time to update our competition laws for the digital era. I am proud to introduce this much-needed legislation alongside Senator Grassley and a bipartisan group of our colleagues, and I look forward to it passing the Senate and being signed into law.”
“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. These companies have continued to become a larger part of our everyday lives and the global economy, controlling what we see and how we engage on the internet,” said Grassley. “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.”
“Time and again we have seen Big Tech use its power to stifle online competition and manipulate the marketplace,” said Daines. “This bipartisan bill will help level the playing field and ensure Montana business owners are able to have full access to the online marketplace to grow and create Montana jobs and support local economies.”
Sumit Sharma, senior researcher, tech competition at Consumer Reports, said, “These market rules should mean that consumer choice is not artificially constricted by the largest online platforms and consumers can more easily tailor services to suit their own needs. The rules will help break down the closed product and service ecosystems that so many of us find ourselves trapped in today.”
“We applaud this bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Klobuchar and Grassley, for taking a major step forward towards bringing real accountability and change to Big Tech. This legislation, combined with other bipartisan bills in the U.S. House are a serious and substantive set of solutions to address the power and abuses of Big Tech that have resulted in real harms to workers, small businesses, consumers, and innovation. We look forward to moving this proposal forward as well as additional measures to address the range of Big Tech abuses,” said Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen.
“Nondiscrimination protections like the ones in this bill are crucial for breaking down the power of Big Tech. Right now, dominant platforms can pick winners and losers to stay in power and benefit their own bottom line—to the detriment of the people who rely on them: consumers, innovators, and the small businesses. This bipartisan bill marks a meaningful step forward in the fight to protect consumers and competition online. We look forward to continuing to work with Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member Grassley, and the bipartisan group of cosponsors to strengthen the nondiscrimination protections in this bill. We want to cut down on the additional hoops enforcers have to jump through to bring a case against Big Tech discrimination, so that competition on and against dominant digital platforms will have a fair shot,” said Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Director at Public Knowledge.
“Big Tech corporations have been abusing their monopoly power for years, blatantly self-dealing and rigging marketplaces under the presumption that Congress would fail to stop them. Amid historic polarization in Washington, this bipartisan show of force sends an unmistakable message that the era of impunity is over. This bill takes direct aim at some of the most exploitative tactics Silicon Valley giants have long employed to unfairly entrench their dominance at the expense of consumers and competition. And it demonstrates unequivocally that lawmakers are ready to work across the aisle to take significant action to rein in Big Tech. We thank Senators Klobuchar and Grassley for their bipartisan leadership, and look forward to Congress moving forward on the full suite of aggressive antitrust reforms needed to unwind decades of corporate consolidation that – along with other Big Tech abuses that must separately be addressed – has undermined American democracy,” said Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech.
“We applaud today’s introduction of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. We thank Chair Klobuchar and Senator Grassley for the thoughtful crafting of this legislation. If passed into law, the proposal would strengthen and expand the tools at the government's disposal to restore competitiveness in the online market and promote an open and pluralistic web for consumers,” said Luther Lowe, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at Yelp.
“Gatekeeper platforms use their power to distort markets by manufacturing self-serving advantages at the expense of American consumers and competitors. They offer users fewer, less innovative choices and insulate themselves from competition, which leads to higher prices for consumers. At Spotify, we welcome the bipartisan introduction of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and thank Senators Klobuchar and Grassley for their steadfast leadership. With both the House and Senate now hard at work to modernize competition law, we look forward to Congress bringing an end to these discriminatory practices for the sake of consumer choice and the digital economy,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at Spotify.
“Roku supports bipartisan efforts such as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act to modernize our competition laws, promote innovation, and protect consumers in the Digital Age,” said John Kelly, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Communications at Roku.
"This legislation directly addresses the threats to a competitive and fair marketplace that Senators Klobuchar and Lee identified during their April hearing. We support this bipartisan approach from Senators Klobuchar and Grassley, which establishes important protections that will put a stop to monopolies using their dominant position to charge discriminatory monopoly rents and unfairly control access to customers,” said Mark Buse, Senior Vice President of Global Policy at Match Group.
"When Google and other dominant tech companies self-preference their own products across their platforms, forcing people to use their services by default, it unfairly and purposefully blocks competitors like DuckDuckGo. And in the case of companies like Google and Facebook in particular, not only does this hurt competitors like us, it also significantly damages our society and democracy by pushing people into their surveillance business models. We support the American Innovation and Choice Online Act because it will make clear that self-preferencing behavior like this is illegal as well as allow consumers to actually choose the services they want to use without interference from dominant platforms,” said Gabriel Weinberg, CEO and Founder of DuckDuckGo.
“The Coalition for App Fairness is encouraged that members of Congress in both parties are paying attention to the anti-competitive practices of Apple and other tech gatekeepers,” said Meghan DiMuzio, executive director of Coalition for App Fairness. “We appreciate Senators Klobuchar and Grassley for their leadership and look forward to continuing our work to address the specific concerns of app developers and consumers around the world.”
“Choice is fundamental to competition. American consumers have been systematically denied access to critical information about their market choices. This new bill will fight strong arm tactics used by Big Tech to disadvantage their consumers and exclude competitors from the marketplace,” said Durbin.
“This legislation will help end Big Tech’s self-serving market manipulation. For too long, tech giants have been able to use their vast market dominance to unfairly boost their own products and services—and to disadvantage competitors. I’m proud to back this bipartisan bill to level the playing field, ensuring smaller competitors have a fighting chance and consumers have more options at fairer prices,” said Blumenthal.
“Big Tech has a track record of unfairly limiting consumer choices and thwarting free-market competition. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would help offer consumers more options at competitive prices from businesses online, which is what the American economy is supposed to do best,” said Kennedy.
“The nation’s largest tech companies, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, have faced accusations of prioritizing their own products on their platforms, using their market power to edge out competitors, and limiting consumers’ choice,” said Booker. “These discriminatory practices have been an issue for far too long, and it's time for Congress to step up and help restore competition to the digital marketplace. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would hold the largest tech platforms accountable by prohibiting these discriminatory practices, and ensure that their competitors can participate fairly in the marketplace.”
“In the absence of any meaningful regulations, Big Tech platforms are using the data they collect from companies on their platforms to create unfair advantages for themselves. These practices have stifled innovation and harmed their very consumers with a lack of choice. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would level the playing field and make sure that consumers and merchants in Wyoming have fair access to the marketplace,” said Lummis.
“Our competition laws haven’t kept pace with today’s economy. The result is online giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google who roll over potential competitors and harm consumers,” said Hirono. “By preventing tech giants from preferencing their own products, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act will bring real competition back to the online world.”
“For our digital economy to work for all Americans and all innovators, we need fair rules of the road. This bill ensures that dominant platforms aren’t engaging in self-preferencing or other discriminatory conduct that tilts the playing field in their favor and entrenches their dominance,” said Warner.
Hawley said, “For too long, Big Tech has run roughshod over small businesses, and lax antitrust enforcers have refused to do anything. No more. Congress is finally beginning to take these issues seriously. This bill will outlaw much of the discrimination and self-preferencing that tech companies currently get away with.”
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act will:
- Set clear, effective rules to protect competition and users doing business on dominant online platforms, including:
- Prohibiting dominant platforms from abusing their gatekeeper power by favoring their own products or services, disadvantaging rivals, or discriminating among businesses that use their platforms in a manner that would materially harm competition on the platform; and
- Prohibiting specific forms of conduct that are harmful to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and consumers, but that do not have any pro-competitive benefit, including:
- Preventing another business’s product or service from interoperating with the dominant platform or another business;
- Requiring a business to buy a dominant platform’s goods or services for preferred placement on its platform;
- Misusing a business’s data to compete against them; and
- Biasing search results in favor of the dominant firm.
- Give antitrust enforcers strong, flexible tools to deter violations and hold dominant platforms accountable when they cross the line into illegal behavior, including significant civil penalties, authority to seek broad injunctions, emergency interim relief, and potential forfeiture of executive compensation.
- Prevent self-preferencing and discriminatory conduct by the most economically significant online platforms with large U.S. user bases which function as “critical trading partners” for online businesses. For such platforms, the rules target harmful conduct, allowing the platforms to innovate, do business, and engage in pro-consumer conduct, including protecting user privacy and safety, preventing unlawful behavior, and maintaining a secure online experience for users.
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