By Dana Mattioli and Ryan Tracy
House lawmakers proposed a raft of bipartisan legislation aimed at reining in the power of Big Tech, including a bill that aims to make Amazon.com Inc. and other large companies effectively split into two companies or shed their private-label products.
The House bills, announced Friday, amount to the biggest Congressional broadside yet on a handful of technology companies -- including Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as well as Amazon -- whose enormous size and power have drawn growing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and Europe.
If the bills become law -- a prospect that still faces significant hurdles -- they could substantially alter the most richly valued companies in America and reshape an industry that has extended its impact into nearly every facet of work and life.
One of the proposed measures, titled the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, seeks to require structural separation of Amazon and other big technology companies to break up their businesses. It would make it unlawful for a covered online platform to own a business that "utilizes the covered platform for the sale or provision of products or services" or that sells services as a condition for access to the platform. The platform company also couldn't own businesses that create conflicts of interest, such as by creating the "incentive and ability" for the platform to advantage its own products over competitors.
A separate bill takes a different approach to target platforms' self-preferencing. It would bar them from conduct that "advantages the covered platform operator's own products, services, or lines of business over those of another business user," or that excludes or disadvantages other businesses.
The proposed legislation would need to be passed by the Democratic-controlled House as well as the Senate, where it would likely also need substantial Republican support. While Republicans are concerned about technology companies' power, many are skeptical about changing antitrust laws.
Each of the bills has both Republicans and Democrats signed onto it, with more expected to join in the coming days, congressional aides said. A total of seven Republicans are backing the bills, with a different group of three signing on to each measure, according to a person familiar with the situation.
"Unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy," said Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), the top Democrat on the House Antitrust Subcommittee. "They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work. Our agenda will level the playing field."
Rep. Ken Buck (R., Col.), the top Republican on the panel, said he supports the legislation because it "breaks up Big Tech's monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online, and fosters an online market that encourages innovation."
The four companies didn't immediately comment on the proposed legislation. All four companies have defended their competitive practices and said that they operate their products and services to benefit customers.
The proposed bills are among five bills announced Friday that aim to curb the dominance of technology giants.
A third bill would force online platforms to make their services interoperable with those of competitors, a provision that could force different social networks to allow their users to communicate or allow e-commerce sellers to export their customer reviews from one site to another, according to a summary provided by lawmakers.
A fourth bill targets mergers, making it unlawful for a large online platform to acquire competitors or potential competitors. The bill would have prevented only "a small percentage of all technology sector deals" over the past decade, the summary said.
Lawmakers also introduced a bill to raise filing fees for mergers valued more than $1 billion and lower them for transactions under $500,000. It would generate an estimated $135 million for antitrust enforcement agencies in its first year, the summary said. Similar legislation recently passed the Senate.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires