In the US the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee has released its 400 plus page Investigation of Competition in the Digital Marketplace: Majority Staff Report and Recommendations regarding competition in the digital economy, particularly challenges presented by the dominance of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook and their business practices.
The Subcommittee notes that the report draws on seven congressional hearings, the production of nearly 1.3 million internal documents and communications, submissions from 38 antitrust experts, and interviews with more than 240 market participants, former employees of the investigated platforms, and other individuals.
The report offers possible remedies to (1) restore competition in the digital economy, (2) strengthen the antitrust laws, and (3) reinvigorate antitrust enforcement.
- Structural separations to prohibit platforms from operating in lines of business that depend on or interoperate with the platform;
- Prohibiting platforms from engaging in self-preferencing;
- Requiring platforms to make its services compatible with competing networks to allow for interoperability and data portability;
- Mandating that platforms provide due process before taking action against market participants;
- Establishing a standard to proscribe strategic acquisitions that reduce competition;
- Improvements to the Clayton Act, the Sherman Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act, to bring these laws into line with the challenges of the digital economy;
- Eliminating anticompetitive forced arbitration clauses;
- Strengthening the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice; and
- Promoting greater transparency and democratization of the antitrust agencies.
A year after initiating the investigation, we received testimony from the Chief Executive Officers of [Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google]: Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai. For nearly six hours, we pressed for answers about their business practices, including about evidence concerning the extent to which they have exploited, entrenched, and expanded their power over digital markets in anticompetitive and abusive ways. Their answers were often evasive and non-responsive, raising fresh questions about whether they believe they are beyond the reach of democratic oversight.
Although these four corporations differ in important ways, studying their business practices has revealed common problems. First, each platform now serves as a gatekeeper over a key channel of distribution. By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy. They not only wield tremendous power, but they also abuse it by charging exorbitant fees, imposing oppressive contract terms, and extracting valuable data from the people and businesses that rely on them. Second, each platform uses its gatekeeper position to maintain its market power. By controlling the infrastructure of the digital age, they have surveilled other businesses to identify potential rivals, and have ultimately bought out, copied, or cut off their competitive threats. And, finally, these firms have abused their role as intermediaries to further entrench and expand their dominance. Whether through self-preferencing, predatory pricing, or exclusionary conduct, the dominant platforms have exploited their power in order to become even more dominant.
To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons. Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price. These firms typically run the marketplace while also competing in it—a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another, or to engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.
The effects of this significant and durable market power are costly. The Subcommittee’s series of hearings produced significant evidence that these firms wield their dominance in ways that erode entrepreneurship, degrade Americans’ privacy online, and undermine the vibrancy of the free and diverse press. The result is less innovation, fewer choices for consumers, and a weakened democracy.
Nearly a century ago, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” Those words speak to us with great urgency today.
Although we do not expect that all of our Members will agree on every finding and recommendation identified in this Report, we firmly believe that the totality of the evidence produced during this investigation demonstrates the pressing need for legislative action and reform. These firms have too much power, and that power must be reined in and subject to appropriate oversight and enforcement. Our economy and democracy are at stake.
As a charter of economic liberty, the antitrust laws are the backbone of open and fair markets. When confronted by powerful monopolies over the past century—be it the railroad tycoons and oil barons or Ma Bell and Microsoft—Congress has acted to ensure that no dominant firm captures and holds undue control over our economy or our democracy. We face similar challenges today. Congress—not the courts, agencies, or private companies—enacted the antitrust laws, and Congress must lead the path forward to modernize them for the economy of today, as well as tomorrow. Our laws must be updated to ensure that our economy remains vibrant and open in the digital age.
Congress must also ensure that the antitrust agencies aggressively and fairly enforce the law. Over the course of the investigation, the Subcommittee uncovered evidence that the antitrust agencies failed, at key occasions, to stop monopolists from rolling up their competitors and failed to protect the American people from abuses of monopoly power. Forceful agency action is critical.
Lastly, Congress must revive its tradition of robust oversight over the antitrust laws and increased market concentration in our economy. In prior Congresses, the Subcommittee routinely examined these concerns in accordance with its constitutional mandate to conduct oversight and perform its legislative duties. As a 1950 report from the then-named Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power described its mandate: “It is the province of this subcommittee to investigate factors which tend to eliminate competition, strengthen monopolies, injure small business, or promote undue concentration of economic power; to ascertain the facts, and to make recommendations based on those findings.”
Similarly, the Subcommittee has followed the facts before it to produce this Report, which is the product of a considerable evidentiary and oversight record. This record includes: 1,287,997 documents and communications; testimony from 38 witnesses; a hearing record that spans more than 1,800 pages; 38 submissions from 60 antitrust experts from across the political spectrum; and interviews with more than 240 market participants, former employees of the investigated platforms, and other individuals totaling thousands of hours. The Subcommittee has also held hearings and roundtables with industry and government witnesses, consultations with subject-matter experts, and a careful—and at times painstaking—review of large volumes of evidence provided by industry participants and regulators. ...
Finally, as an institutional matter, we close by noting that the Committee’s requests for information from agencies and any non-public briefings were solely for the purpose of carrying out our constitutionally based legislative and oversight functions. In particular, the information requested was vital to informing our assessment of whether existing antitrust laws are adequate for tackling current competition problems, as well as in uncovering potential reasons for under-enforcement. The Report by Subcommittee staff is based on the documents and information collected during its investigation, and the Committee fully respects the separate and independent decisional processes employed by enforcement authorities with respect to such matters.
Although the companies provided substantial information and numerous documents to the Subcommittee, they declined to produce certain critical information and crucial documents we requested. The material withheld was identified by the Committee as relevant to the investigation and included, primarily, two categories of information: (1) documents the companies’ claimed were protected by common law privileges; and (2) documents that were produced to antitrust authorities in ongoing investigations, or that related to the subject matter of these ongoing investigations.
Institutionally, we reject any argument that the mere existence of ongoing litigation prevents or prohibits Congress from obtaining information relevant to its legislative and oversight prerogatives. We strongly disagree with the assertion that any requests for such materials and any compliance with those requests interfere with the decisional processes in ongoing investigations. Furthermore, while Congress is fully subject to constitutional protections, we cannot agree that we are bound by common law privileges as asserted by the companies. While we determined that insufficient time exists to pursue these additional materials during this Congress, the Committee expressly reserves the right to invoke other available options, including compulsory process, to obtain the requested information in the future. ..
Summarising the Subcommittee’s Investigation, the report states
On June 3, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee announced a bipartisan investigation led by the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. The purpose of the investigation was to (1) document competition problems in digital markets; (2) examine whether dominant firms are engaging in anticompetitive conduct; and (3) assess whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies, and current enforcement levels are competition in digital markets. The Committee initiated the investigation in response to broad-ranging investigative reporting, and activity by policymakers and enforcers, that raised serious adequate to address these issues. concerns about the platforms’ incentives and ability to harm the competitive process.
As part of the investigation, the Subcommittee held seven oversight hearings that provided Members of the Subcommittee with an opportunity to examine the state of competition in digital markets and the adequacy of existing antitrust laws. A diverse group of witnesses offered testimony on topics related to the effects of market power on the free and diverse press, on innovation, and on privacy. Other witnesses who testified included executives from businesses with concerns about the dominance of the investigated firms. The hearings also provided an opportunity for key executives from Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple—including the Chief Executive Officers of these firms— to address evidence that was uncovered during the investigation in a public-facing venue. After each of the hearings, Members of the Subcommittee submitted questions for the record (QFRs) to the witnesses.
The Committee requested information from the dominant platforms, from market participants, from the Federal antitrust agencies, and from other relevant parties, for the purpose of obtaining information that was not otherwise publicly available but was important to assembling a comprehensive record. The Committee also sent requests for submissions to various experts in the field, including academics, representatives of public interest groups, and practicing antitrust lawyers. The responses to these requests were indispensable to staff’s ability to complete this Report and its recommendations for congressional oversight of the antitrust agencies and legislative action.
This Report is intended to provide policymakers, antitrust enforcers, market participants, and the public with a comprehensive understanding of the state of competition in the online marketplace. The Report also provides recommendations for areas of legislative activity to address the rise and abuse of market power in the digital economy, as well as areas that warrant additional congressional attention.
Its finding are summarised as
The open internet has delivered significant benefits to Americans and the U.S. economy. Over the past few decades, it has created a surge of economic opportunity, capital investment, and pathways for education. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of internet access that is affordable, competitive, and widely available for workers, families, and businesses.
The online platforms investigated by the Subcommittee—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—also play an important role in our economy and society as the underlying infrastructure for the exchange of communications, information, and goods and services. As of September 2020, the combined valuation of these platforms is more than $5 trillion—more than a third of the value of the S&P 100. As we continue to shift our work, commerce, and communications online, these firms stand to become even more interwoven into the fabric of our economy and our lives.
Over the past decade, the digital economy has become highly concentrated and prone to monopolization. Several markets investigated by the Subcommittee—such as social networking, general online search, and online advertising—are dominated by just one or two firms. The companies investigated by the Subcommittee—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—have captured control over key channels of distribution and have come to function as gatekeepers. Just a decade into the future, 30% of the world’s gross economic output may lie with these firms, and just a handful of others.
In interviews with Subcommittee staff, numerous businesses described how dominant platforms exploit their gatekeeper power to dictate terms and extract concessions that no one would reasonably consent to in a competitive market. Market participants that spoke with Subcommittee staff indicated that their dependence on these gatekeepers to access users and markets requires concessions and demands that carry significant economic harm, but that are “the cost of doing business” given the lack of options.
This significant and durable market power is due to several factors, including a high volume of acquisitions by the dominant platforms. Together, the firms investigated by the Subcommittee have acquired hundreds of companies just in the last ten years. In some cases, a dominant firm evidently acquired nascent or potential competitors to neutralize a competitive threat or to maintain and expand the firm’s dominance. In other cases, a dominant firm acquired smaller companies to shut them down or discontinue underlying products entirely—transactions aptly described as “killer acquisitions.”
In the overwhelming number of cases, the antitrust agencies did not request additional information and documentary material under their pre-merger review authority in the Clayton Act, to examine whether the proposed acquisition may substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly if allowed to proceed as proposed. For example, of Facebook’s nearly 100 acquisitions, the Federal Trade Commission engaged in an extensive investigation of just one acquisition: Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012.
During the investigation, Subcommittee staff found evidence of monopolization and monopoly power. For example, the strong network effects associated with Facebook has tipped the market toward monopoly such that Facebook competes more vigorously among its own products—Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger—than with actual competitors.
As demonstrated during a series of hearings held by the Subcommittee and as detailed in this Report, the online platforms’ dominance carries significant costs. It has diminished consumer choice, eroded innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy, weakened the vibrancy of the free and diverse press, and undermined Americans’ privacy.
These concerns are shared by the majority of Americans. On September 24, 2020, Consumer Reports (CR) published a survey titled “Platform Perceptions: Consumer Attitudes on Competition and Fairness in Online Platforms.” Among its findings:
• 85% of Americans are concerned—either very concerned or somewhat concerned— about the amount of data online platforms store about them, and 81% are concerned that platforms are collecting and holding this data in order to build out more comprehensive consumer profiles.
• 58% are not confident that they are getting objective and unbiased search results when using an online platform to shop or search for information.
• 79% say Big Tech mergers and acquisitions unfairly undermine competition and
• 60% support more government regulation of online platforms, and mandating interoperability features, to make it easier for users to switch from one platform to another without losing important data or connections.
Facebook has monopoly power in the market for social networking. Internal communications among the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, and other senior executives indicate that Facebook acquired its competitive threats to maintain and expand its dominance. For example, a senior executive at the company described its acquisition strategy as a “land grab” to “shore up” Facebook’s position, while Facebook’s CEO said that Facebook “can likely always just buy any competitive startups,” and agreed with one of the company’s senior engineers that Instagram was a threat to Facebook.
Facebook’s monopoly power is firmly entrenched and unlikely to be eroded by competitive pressure from new entrants or existing firms. In 2012, the company described its network effects as a “flywheel” in an internal presentation prepared for Facebook at the direction of its Chief Financial Officer. This presentation also said that Facebook’s network effects get “stronger every day.”
More recent documents produced during the investigation by Facebook show that it has tipped the social networking market toward a monopoly, and now considers competition within its own family of products to be more considerable than competition from any other firm. These documents include an October 2018 memorandum by Thomas Cunningham, a senior data scientist and economist at Facebook, for review by Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Javier Olivan, Facebook's Director of Growth. Among other things, the Cunningham Memo found that the network effects of Facebook and its family of products are “very strong,” and that there are strong tipping points in the social networking market that create competition for the market, rather than competition within the market.
According to a former senior employee at Instagram who was involved in the preparation of this document for Mr. Zuckerberg and Olivan, the Cunningham Memo guided Facebook’s growth strategy, particularly with regard to Instagram. They explained:
The question was how do we position Facebook and Instagram to not compete with each other. The concern was the Instagram would hit a tipping point . . . There was brutal in-fighting between Instagram and Facebook at the time. It was very tense. It was back when Kevin Systrom was still at the company. He wanted Instagram to grow naturally and as widely as possible. But Mark was clearly saying “do not compete with us.” . . . It was collusion, but within an internal monopoly. If you own two social media utilities, they should not be allowed to shore each other up. It’s unclear to me why this
Facebook has also maintained its monopoly through a series of anticompetitive business practices. The company used its data advantage to create superior market intelligence to identify nascent competitive threats and then acquire, copy, or kill these firms. Once dominant, Facebook selectively enforced its platform policies based on whether it perceived other companies as competitive threats. In doing so, it advantaged its own services while weakening other firms.
In the absence of competition, Facebook’s quality has deteriorated over time, resulting in worse privacy protections for its users and a dramatic rise in misinformation on its platform.
Google has a monopoly in the markets for general online search and search advertising. Google’s dominance is protected by high entry barriers, including its click-and-query data and the extensive default positions that Google has obtained across most of the world’s devices and browsers. A significant number of entities—spanning major public corporations, small businesses, and entrepreneurs—depend on Google for traffic, and no alternate search engine serves as a substitute.
Google maintained its monopoly over general search through a series of anticompetitive tactics. These include an aggressive campaign to undermine vertical search providers, which Google viewed as a significant threat. Documents show that Google used its search monopoly to misappropriate content from third parties and to boost Google’s own inferior vertical offerings, while imposing search penalties to demote third-party vertical providers. Since capturing a monopoly over general search, Google has steadily proliferated its search results page with ads and with Google’s own content, while also blurring the distinction between paid ads and organic results. As a result of these tactics, Google appears to be siphoning off traffic from the rest of the web, while entities seeking to reach users must pay Google steadily increasing sums for ads. Numerous market participants analogized Google to a gatekeeper that is extorting users for access to its critical distribution channel, even as its search page shows users less relevant results.
A second way Google has maintained its monopoly over general search has been through a series of anticompetitive contracts. After purchasing the Android operating system in 2005, Google used contractual restrictions and exclusivity provisions to extend Google’s search monopoly from desktop to mobile. Documents show that Google required smartphone manufacturers to pre-install and give default status to Google’s own apps, impeding competitors in search as well as in other app markets. As search activity now migrates from mobile to voice, third-party interviews suggest Google is again looking for ways to maintain its monopoly over search access points through a similar set of practices.
Since capturing the market for online search, Google has extended into a variety of other lines of business. Today Google is ubiquitous across the digital economy, serving as the infrastructure for core products and services online. Through Chrome, Google now owns the world’s most popular browser—a critical gateway to the internet that it has used to both protect and promote its other lines of business. Through Google Maps, Google now captures over 80% of the market for navigation mapping service—a key input over which Google consolidated control through an anticompetitive acquisition and which it now leverages to advance its position in search and advertising. And through Google Cloud, Google has another core platform in which it is now heavily investing through acquisitions, positioning itself to dominate the “Internet of Things,” the next wave of surveillance technologies.
Internal communications also reveal that Google exploits information asymmetries and closely tracks real-time data across markets, which—given Google’s scale—provide it with near-perfect market intelligence. In certain instances, Google has covertly set up programs to more closely track its potential and actual competitors, including through projects like Android Lockbox.
Each of its services provides Google with a trove of user data, reinforcing its dominance across markets and driving greater monetization through online ads. Through linking these services together, Google increasingly functions as an ecosystem of interlocking monopolies.
Amazon has significant and durable market power in the U.S. online retail market. This conclusion is based on the significant record that Subcommittee staff collected and reviewed, including testimonials from third-party sellers, brand manufacturers, publishers, former employees, and other market participants, as well as Amazon’s internal documents. Although Amazon is frequently described as controlling about 40% of U.S. online retail sales, this market share is likely understated, and estimates of about 50% or higher are more credible.
As the dominant marketplace in the United States for online shopping, Amazon’s market power is at its height in its dealings with third-party sellers. The platform has monopoly power over many small- and medium-sized businesses that do not have a viable alternative to Amazon for reaching online consumers. Amazon has 2.3 million active third-party sellers on its marketplace worldwide, and a recent survey estimates that about 37% of them—about 850,000 sellers—rely on Amazon as their sole source of income.
Amazon achieved its current dominant position, in part, through acquiring its competitors, including Diapers.com and Zappos. It has also acquired companies that operate in adjacent markets, adding customer data to its stockpile and further shoring up its competitive moats. This strategy has entrenched and expanded Amazon’s market power in e-commerce, as well as in other markets. The company’s control over, and reach across, its many business lines enables it to self-preference and disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition. As a result of Amazon’s dominance, other businesses are frequently beholden to Amazon for their success.
Amazon has engaged in extensive anticompetitive conduct in its treatment of third-party sellers. Publicly, Amazon describes third-party sellers as “partners.” But internal documents show that, behind closed doors, the company refers to them as “internal competitors.” Amazon’s dual role as an operator of its marketplace that hosts third-party sellers, and a seller in that same marketplace, creates an inherent conflict of interest. This conflict incentivizes Amazon to exploit its access to competing sellers’ data and information, among other anticompetitive conduct.
Voice assistant ecosystems are an emerging market with a high propensity for lock-in and self- preferencing. Amazon has expanded Alexa’s ecosystem quickly through acquisitions of complementary and competing technologies, and by selling its Alexa-enabled smart speakers at deep discounts. The company’s early leadership in this market is leading to the collection of highly sensitive consumer data, which Amazon can use to promote its other business, including e-commerce and Prime Video.
Finally, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides critical infrastructure for many businesses with which Amazon competes. This creates the potential for a conflict of interest where cloud customers are forced to consider patronizing a competitor, as opposed to selecting the best technology for their business.
Apple has significant and durable market power in the mobile operating system market. Apple’s dominance in this market, where it controls the iOS mobile operating system that runs on Apple mobile devices, has enabled it to control all software distribution to iOS devices. As a result, Apple exerts monopoly power in the mobile app store market, controlling access to more than 100 million iPhones and iPads in the U.S.
Apple’s mobile ecosystem has produced significant benefits to app developers and consumers. Launched in 2008, the App Store revolutionized software distribution on mobile devices, reducing barriers to entry for app developers and increasing the choices available to consumers. Despite this, Apple leverages its control of iOS and the App Store to create and enforce barriers to competition and discriminate against and exclude rivals while preferencing its own offerings. Apple also uses its power to exploit app developers through misappropriation of competitively sensitive information and to charge app developers supra-competitive prices within the App Store. Apple has maintained its dominance due to the presence of network effects, high barriers to entry, and high switching costs in the mobile operating system market.
Apple is primarily a hardware company that derives most of its revenue from sales of devices and accessories. However, as the market for products like the iPhone have matured, Apple has pivoted to rely increasingly on sales of its applications and services, as well as collecting commissions and fees in the App Store. In the absence of competition, Apple’s monopoly power over software distribution to iOS devices has resulted in harms to competitors and competition, reducing quality and innovation among app developers, and increasing prices and reducing choices for consumers.
f. Effects of Market Power
The Subcommittee also examined the effects of market power in digital markets on the free and diverse press, innovation, privacy and data, and other relevant matters summarized below for ease of reference.
As part of this process, the Subcommittee received testimony and submissions showing that the dominance of some online platforms has contributed to the decline of trustworthy sources of news, which is essential to our democracy. In several submissions news publishers raised concerns regarding the “significant and growing asymmetry of power” between dominant platforms and news organizations, as well as the effect of this dominance on the production and availability of trustworthy sources of news. Other publishers said that they are “increasingly beholden” to these firms, and in particular, to Google and Facebook. Google and Facebook have an outsized influence over the distribution and monetization of trustworthy sources of news online, undermining the quality and availability of high-quality sources of journalism. This concern is underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has laid bare the importance of preserving a vibrant free press in both local and national markets.
The rise of market power online has also materially weakened innovation and entrepreneurship in the US economy. Some venture capitalists, for example, report that there is an innovation “kill zone” that insulates dominant platforms from competitive pressure simply because investors do not view new entrants as worthwhile investments. Other investors have said that they avoid fundingentrepreneurs and other companies that compete directly or indirectly with dominant firms in thedigital economy. In an interview with Subcommittee staff, a prominent venture capital investor explained that due these factors there is a strong economic incentive for firms to avoid head-on competition with dominant firms.
Additionally, in the absence of adequate privacy guardrails in the United States, the persistent collection and misuse of consumer data is an indicator of market power online. Online platforms rarely charge consumers a monetary price—products appear to be “free” but are monetized throughpeople’s attention or with their data. 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.
Finally, the market power of the dominant platforms risks undermining both political and economic liberties. Subcommittee staff encountered a prevalence of fear among market participants that depend on the dominant platforms, many of whom expressed unease that the success of their business and their economic livelihood depend on what they viewed as the platforms’ unaccountable and arbitrary power. Additionally, courts and enforcers have found the dominant platforms to engage in recidivism, repeatedly violating laws and court orders. This pattern of behavior raises questions about whether these firms view themselves as above the law, or whether they simply treat lawbreaking as a cost of business. Lastly, the growth in the platforms’ market power has coincided with an increase in their influence over the policymaking process. Through a combination of direct lobbying and funding think tanks and academics, the dominant platforms have expanded their sphere of influence, further shaping how they are governed and regulated.
The recommendations are summarised as
As part of the investigation of competition in digital markets, the Subcommittee conducted a thorough examination of the adequacy of current laws and enforcement levels. This included receiving submissions from experts on antitrust and competition policy who were selected on a careful, bipartisan basis to ensure the representation of a diverse range of views on these matters. The Subcommittee also received other submissions from leading experts—including Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager of the European Commission and Chair Rod Sims of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission—to inform this inquiry. Most recently, on October 1, 2020, the Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on “Proposals to Strengthen the Antitrust Laws and Restore Competition Online” to examine potential solutions to concerns identified during the investigation to further inform the Report’s recommendations.
Based on this oversight activity, Subcommittee Chairman Cicilline requested that staff provide a menu of reforms to Members of the Subcommittee for purposes of potential legislative activity during the remainder of the 116th Congress and thereafter. As he noted in remarks to the American Antitrust Institute in June 2019: [I]t is Congress’ responsibility to conduct oversight of our antitrust laws and competition system to ensure that they are properly working and to enact changes when they are not. While I do not have any preconceived ideas about what the right answer is, as Chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee, I intend to carry out that responsibility with the sense of urgency and serious deliberation that it demands.
In response to this request, Subcommittee staff identified a broad set of reforms for further examination by the Members of the Subcommittee for purposes of crafting legislative responses to the findings of this Report. These reforms include proposals to: (1) address anticompetitive conduct in digital markets; (2) strengthen merger and monopolization enforcement; and (3) improve the sound administration of the antitrust laws through other reforms.
We intend these recommendations to serve as a complement to vigorous antitrust enforcement. Consistent with the views expressed by Chairman Nadler and Subcommittee Chairman Cicilline in the Foreword to this Report, we view these recommendations as complements, and not substitutes, to forceful antitrust enforcement. For ease of reference, these recommendations for further examination are summarized below.
a. Restoring Competition in the Digital Economy
• Structural separations and prohibitions of certain dominant platforms from operating in adjacent lines of business;
• Nondiscrimination requirements, prohibiting dominant platforms from engaging in self- preferencing, and requiring them to offer equal terms for equal products and services;
• Interoperability and data portability, requiring dominant platforms to make their services compatible with various networks and to make content and information easily portable between them;
• Presumptive prohibition against future mergers and acquisitions by the dominant platforms;
• Safe harbor for news publishers in order to safeguard a free and diverse press; and
• Prohibitions on abuses of superior bargaining power, proscribing dominant platforms from engaging in contracting practices that derive from their dominant market position, and requiring due process protections for individuals and businesses dependent on the dominant platforms.
b. Strengthening the Antitrust Laws
• Reasserting the anti-monopoly goals of the antitrust laws and their centrality to ensuring a healthy and vibrant democracy;
• Strengthening Section 7 of the Clayton Act, including through restoring presumptions and bright-line rules, restoring the incipiency standard and protecting nascent competitors, and strengthening the law on vertical mergers;
• Strengthening Section 2 of the Sherman Act, including by introducing a prohibition on abuse of dominance and clarifying prohibitions on monopoly leveraging, predatory pricing, denial of essential facilities, refusals to deal, tying, and anticompetitive self-preferencing and product design; and
• Taking additional measures to strengthen overall enforcement, including through overriding problematic precedents in the case law.
c. Reviving Antitrust Enforcement
• Restoring robust congressional oversight of the antitrust laws and their enforcement;
• Restoring the federal antitrust agencies to full strength, by triggering civil penalties and other relief for “unfair methods of competition” rules, requiring the Federal Trade Commission to engage in regular data collection on concentration, enhancing public transparency and accountability of the agencies, requiring regular merger retrospectives, codifying stricter prohibitions on the revolving door, and increasing the budgets of the FTC and the Antitrust Division; and
• Strengthening private enforcement, through eliminating obstacles such as forced arbitration clauses, limits on class action formation, judicially created standards constraining what constitutes an antitrust injury, and unduly high pleading standards.