A House panel led by Democrats investigating competition in the technology sector is poised to propose sweeping reforms to block giants such as Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. from both owning marketplaces and selling their own products on them, according to a critique of the recommendations by one Republican member of the subcommittee.
The critique and the panel’s report are still drafts and the contents of both could change. It’s not clear which members will endorse the report, whose release has been delayed because of last-minute information regarding Facebook Inc., CNBC reported earlier. The report was expected this week, but it’s been pushed back, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The recommendations, which would represent the most dramatic overhaul of competition law in decades if approved, are the result of a yearlong investigation by the House antitrust panel led by Democratic Representative David Cicilline. That probe is coming to its conclusion as federal and state antitrust enforcers are also investigating Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook.
Cicilline’s recommendations would include what he has called a Glass-Steagall law for technology platforms, according to the draft discussion paper from Republican Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, which was reported on earlier by Politico and obtained by Bloomberg. Buck said that recommendation and some others would be “non-starters” for the GOP. Glass-Steagall refers to the Depression-era law separating commercial and investment banking.
Cicilline’s proposal would prohibit tech companies from entering different lines of business and amount to a breakup of the companies, according to Buck. Amazon, for example, would be prevented from selling its own products on its marketplace, while Google couldn’t own both the world’s biggest search engine and YouTube. And Apple would be barred from owning the App Store and offering its own apps.
“The majority’s primary remedy to create competition in the tech marketplace is to enact legislation creating structural separation,” Buck wrote in the discussion. Buck said he agrees with Cicilline on the need to rein in the power of technology companies and agrees with certain remedies such as giving more resources to competition enforcers.
Cicilline told Bloomberg in an interview in August that the companies are engaging in “deeply disturbing” abuse of their dominance to crush competitors. The panel issued information requests that yielded millions of pages of documents and held six hearings, including one in July that featured testimony by the chief executives of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple.
The draft report would also recommend legislation that would require the tech companies to allow users to easily move their data from one website to another, according to Buck. It also recommends legislation to shift the burden of proof in merger cases to the tech companies, cap the market share in tech mergers to 25% for buyers, overturn Supreme Court and other decisions that critics say have hampered enforcement agencies from blocking mergers and eliminate arbitration clauses in terms of service.
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