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US antitrust laws should be put to a vote in the next few weeks, say Democrats


Two proposed US antitrust laws should be put to a vote sometime in the next few weeks, say Democratic members of Congress.

In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, they express concerns that time is running out to approve the laws before the end of the year…

Background

There have been growing concerns about the power and market dominance of a small number of tech giants. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been working for several years now on antitrust legislation designed to create a more level playing field for smaller companies to compete.

While there have been attempts to create a single, all-encompassing piece of antitrust legislation, the task proved too ambitious. Congress then began working on multiple antitrust bills, each designed to tackle different issues. Two of these have progressed to the point where they are ready for a vote:

It is this second bill which poses the greatest threat to Apple, requiring big changes to the App Store business model.

  • Competing app stores would be allowed on iPhones and Android phones
  • Consumers would choose which app store app to download
  • Consumers would choose their default apps
  • Apple and Google would not be allowed to do anything to give their own app stores an advantage

Apple has lobbied strongly against this, insisting that having sole control over the sale of iPhone apps is safer for consumers, but continued revelations about multimillion-dollar scams in the App Store have challenged this narrative.

US antitrust laws need a vote now

Both bills now require Schumer to schedule votes. He has so far declined to do so, claiming that he supports the laws but wants to be sure they will pass. Others believe that he is less keen than he wishes people to believe, and that he is stalling in the hope that they will get buried as attention turns to the midterm elections.

Some 18 Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders are now trying to apply pressure to Schumer by writing an open letter calling on him to schedule votes for both bills.

The letter points out that both bills came out of a bipartisan committee.

As you know, these bills are the byproduct of a bipartisan, 16-month investigation led by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law (Antitrust Subcommittee). This investigation was one of the most extensive and in-depth market investigations in congressional history.

It points to a range of opinion polls showing that the legislation has strong public support, as well as the endorsement of numerous government agencies, including the Department of Justice.

The Department explained that dominant platforms are a threat to competition and open markets, and they pose risks to consumers, businesses, innovation, economic resilience, American global competitiveness, and our democracy. The Department noted that it “is strongly supportive” of the objectives of the legislation, “and encourages both the [Judiciary] Committee and Congress to work to finalize this legislation and pass it into law.”

The authors of the letters tell Schumer to act now to allow both acts to be put to a vote.

It is time for Congress to vote on this legislation. The House Judiciary Committee held an extensive markup over a year ago and reported HR 3816, the companion to S. 2992, with bipartisan support. S. 2992 and S. 2710 were reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee nearly six months ago, also with bipartisan support. In the intervening months, the bills’ sponsors have worked closely with other Members to address concerns, answer questions, and ensure the legislation is narrowly tailored. As a result of this work, these bills are ready for a vote and we urge you to schedule the vote on them in the next few weeks.

You can read the full text of the letter here.

Photo: Lorie Shaull

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Naveen Kumar

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