Big Tech pulls out all the stops to halt ‘self-preferencing’ antitrust bill

Amazon and Alphabet are spearheading the most intense political campaign by American companies in recent history, as part of a last-ditch effort to prevent Congress from passing legislation to curb their market power.

The companies aim to a “Self-Preferential” Bill This would prevent major online platforms from using their dominance in one space to give other products an unfair advantage – for example Alphabet, which uses its Google search engine to promote its travel or shopping products.

If passed, the law will likely spur a wave of legislation aimed at strengthening America’s competition rules in what could be the biggest update to the country’s antitrust rules in a generation.

“This is one of the most significant campaigns we’ve conducted in recent years,” said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which has coordinated the technology industry’s response to the law. “That’s because there has never been such a serious proposal to undermine US competitiveness and put US users at risk.”

The other side sees the lobbying as support for the dominance of the great technique Groups. “The internet giants are in Yolo [you only live once] Mode — they’re desperate and doing everything they can to change course,” said Luther Lowe, senior vice president of public policy at Yelp, which campaigned for the law.

“These companies are throwing spaghetti at the wall and using whatever arguments they can think of,” said a congressional aide who helped promote the bill.

Amazon founder and then CEO Jeff Bezos testifies remotely at a House hearing on “Online Platforms and Market Power” in 2020 © Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

Democrats and Republicans have found rare common cause in recent years in their attempts to rein in the corporate power of Silicon Valley’s largest corporations. Members of Congress have proposed a range of legislation to address this, including measures to limit when big tech companies can buy smaller competitors and prevent them from acting as both buyers and sellers in the lucrative digital advertising market.

But it’s the “self-preference” bill known as the American Innovation and Choice Online Act that the industry is focused on given its widespread support in Congress and potential industry implications.

The bill, which was represented in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and in the House by her party colleague David Cicilline, specifically targets Amazon, Alphabet, Apple and Facebook parent Meta. It has gone through committees in the House and Senate, and its supporters are now waiting for Democratic leaders to put it to a vote.

“Senate offices are hearing from these companies multiple times a day right now,” said a second congressional aide.

If the law passes, it would prevent Google from ranking its own products at the top of search results and prevent Amazon from giving preferential treatment to sellers who can afford it on its online store.

Amazon would be prohibited from forcing sellers of its Prime subscription service to use the company’s own delivery services. It would also force companies to share certain customer data with potential competitors.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has given his support on the bill, while its supporters in the Senate say they have been told by Chuck Schumer, the House Democrat leader, that he intends to have it put to the vote by early summer.

The dynamic has alarmed the affected companies.

The CCIA, which represents all four, spent more than $10 million on the purchase this year TV commercial Warning that the bill would “break Prime” and “end the guaranteed two-day free delivery.”

The money is part of a cash wave that’s been sweeping the internet industry toward Washington in recent years. According to public data compiled by OpenSecretsthe industry went from $25 million for lobbying in 2011 to $85 million a decade later.

Companies do not leave lobbying to their industry associations alone. Alphabet, Amazon and Apple executives have all spoken in person with members of Congress, according to officials and industry executives.

Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer, has led his company’s push, according to several people working in the industry. Amazon has used four of its highest-profile executives to make its case: Andy Jassy, ​​chief executive; David Zapolsky, General Counsel; Andrew DeVore, Associate General Counsel; and Brian Huseman, the Washington-based chief of public policy.

These executives have made a number of arguments against the bill: Consumers like services bundled; the bill would strengthen their Chinese rivals; forced to work more closely with their competitors could jeopardize the security of customer data.

According to industry officials and on Capitol Hill, Google has proposed a number of changes. According to two congressional officials, Amazon has called members from its home state of Washington, arguing that the law could result in job losses there.

In a bid to address some of the industry’s concerns, Klobuchar last month published an updated version of the text that, among other things, would make it easier for companies to argue they are taking certain steps to protect customers’ digital privacy, and says companies shouldn’t being penalized for offering encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp or subscription services like Amazon Prime.

However, these changes have not been enough to mollify opponents of the bill. Zoe Lofgren, the California Democratic Representative, said: “Basically, we have never legislated based on rules for five companies that are different from everyone else. The way it’s made is problematic.”

Given divisions within their own party, some believe the Democratic leadership in Congress could avoid a vote on the “self-preference” bill even if it wins Republican support. Others believe Democrats want to seize the opportunity to pass landmark legislation.

Charlotte Slaiman, director of competition policy at Public Knowledge, a campaign group that has backed the law, said, “I think Congress should take the chance to do something big here.”

Big Tech pulls out all the stops to halt ‘self-preferencing’ antitrust bill Source link Big Tech pulls out all the stops to halt ‘self-preferencing’ antitrust bill

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