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Chairman Nadler Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on "Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google"

Washington, July 29, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on "Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google":

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I want to thank you, Ranking Member Sensenbrenner and the Subcommittee Members for the tremendous effort that you all have put into this Subcommittee’s investigation.  I appreciate your calling this hearing today so that we can hear directly from the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, and I look forward to an important dialogue.

"Today, it is effectively impossible to use the Internet without using, in one way or another, the services of these four companies.  I have long believed, with Thomas Jefferson and Louis Brandeis, that concentration of power in any form—especially concentration of economic or political power—is dangerous to a democratic society.

"That is why we must examine these and other companies that play a dominant role in our economy and in our society, and ensure that our antitrust laws give enforcers the tools they need to preserve a healthy marketplace.  These principles have guided this Committee’s year-long investigation into competition in digital markets and they are the lens through which I approach today’s hearing.

"The open Internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online. But there is growing evidence that a handful of corporations have come to capture an outsized share of online commerce and communications.

"From providing the dominant search platform, retail platform, and online messaging platform, to providing the underlying mapping services and cloud computing on which hundreds of thousands of other businesses rely, these dominant platforms now comprise the essential infrastructure for the 21st century.

"By virtue of controlling essential infrastructure, these companies have the ability to control access to markets. In some basic ways, the problem is not unlike what we faced 130 years ago, when railroads transformed American life—both enabling farmers and producers to access new markets, but also creating a key chokehold that the railroad monopolies could exploit.

"Railroads notoriously abused this gatekeeper power in a variety of ways. They charged tolls, extorting the producers reliant on their rails. They discriminated among farmers, picking winners and losers across the economy. And by expanding into lines of business that competed directly with producers, they could use their dominance in transportation to favor their own services.

"These tactics by the railroads spurred fury and despair across the country. Congress initiated investigations to document these problems and enacted legislative solutions to halt and outlaw these anticompetitive practices in the railroad industry and other industries dominated by unregulated monopolies and trusts.

"Importantly, congressional oversight and legislative reforms during this period did not prevent or encumber the inexorable arrival of new technology or human progress.

"Instead, Congress recognized that these powerful new technologies had reshaped the balance of power in our economy—and that it was the role of Congress to ensure the new monopolists could not abuse their power.

"Today, the digital economy presents similar challenges.

"While the underlying technology is dramatically different, new digital intermediaries have the ability to control access to critical markets. If you are an independent merchant, developer, or content producer, you are increasingly reliant on these powerful intermediaries to access markets and consumers.

"Across the economy, many businesses live in fear of exclusion from these platforms, a fact that some companies have shared with the Committee over the past year during this investigation.

"The Subcommittee’s current review of competition in the digital marketplace continues a long tradition in this Committee of oversight of the antitrust laws and our economy.

"From the days of Chairman Emanuel Celler, the House Judiciary Committee and its antitrust subcommittee have conducted careful, fact-based inquiries into industrial sectors showing signs of consolidation and anti-competitive conduct.

"This has continued on a bipartisan basis over the years—from Chairmen Brooks and Hyde to Chairmen Sensenbrenner, Conyers and others.

"As a 1950 report from the then-named Subcommittee on Monopoly Power described our 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.'

"Following in this proud tradition, our investigation has held hearings 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.

"While ultimately it is the responsibility of the antitrust enforcement agencies to enforce the law, Congress has an obligation to assess whether existing antitrust laws and competition policies—and the will to enforce those laws and policies—are adequate to address the competition issues facing our country, and to take action if they are found to be lacking.

"Given the dominant role that these four companies play in our economy and our society, it is only reasonable that our careful examination of the antitrust laws begins with them.

"I appreciate the participation of all of our witnesses today.  Our investigation would not be complete without hearing directly from the decisionmakers at these companies and I look forward to their testimony and today’s discussion.

"I yield back the balance of my time."
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