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House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Announces Series of Hearings on Proposals to Curb the Dominance of Online Platforms and Modernize Antitrust Law

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law announced it will hold a series of hearings starting next week, to consider legislative proposals to address the rise and abuse of market power online and to modernize the antitrust laws. The first hearing, entitled, “Reviving Competition, Part 1: Proposals to Address Gatekeeper Power and Lower Barriers to Entry Online,” will take place on February 25th at 10:00 a.m. E.T.

The hearings will launch the Committee’s competition agenda in the 117th Congress following its 16-month, bipartisan investigation into the state of competition online, which examined (1) competition problems in digital markets; (2) whether dominant firms had engaged in anticompetitive conduct online; and (3) the adequacy of current laws and enforcement levels to address these issues. 

As part of this top-to-bottom review, the Subcommittee received 1.3 million internal documents and communications from dominant online platforms; submissions from 38 antitrust experts; interviewed more than 240 market participants, former employees of the investigated platforms, and other individuals; and held seven hearings, including one with the Chief Executive Officers of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. The investigation culminated in a comprehensive report entitled Investigation of Competition in the Digital Marketplace: Majority Staff Report and Recommendations, which totaled more than 450-pages and included a number of recommendations. The Report is available here.

Several Republican members, including Subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-CO), released a separate report entitled The Third Way: Antitrust Enforcement in Big Tech, which concurred with the findings of the Majority Staff Report and included a discussion of potential remedies. A copy of this report is available here.

The hearings will focus on:

  • Addressing the rise, entrenchment, and abuse of gatekeeper power; lowering barriers to entry; and ensuring the survival of trustworthy sources of news online;
  • Modernizing and strengthening the tools available to police illegal mergers and monopolization, as well as other anticompetitive conduct; and
  • Other improvements to the antitrust laws, current enforcement levels, and congressional oversight as identified by the Majority Staff Report and Recommendations.

“For too long, the dominance of a handful of gatekeepers online has wreaked havoc on competition, suppressed innovation, and weakened entrepreneurship,” said Subcommittee on Antitrust Chairman David N. Cicilline. “During our investigation into the rise and abuse of monopoly power online, we uncovered significant evidence of anticompetitive conduct and harmful business practices by Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple that enabled these companies to entrench their monopoly power, abuse competitors, and harm consumers. After publishing a comprehensive report documenting this conduct, I pledged to undertake a series of legislative reforms to restore competition online and to strengthen the antitrust laws. I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis to do just that.”

“During the pandemic, the internet has played an essential role in allowing many Americans to maintain social connections, as well as access to needed goods and services,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “But as the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into digital markets demonstrated, a number of important markets are dominated by just one or two firms. Moreover, waves of anticompetitive consolidation and conduct online—which have gone entirely unchecked—have shaken the very foundations of our democracy and economy. This series of important hearings will be an important step in producing legislative reforms that will restore and revive a fair and open economy that works for all Americans.”

“I am proud of the bipartisan work we have been able to accomplish this far and I look forward to working with Chairman Cicilline and the members of the subcommittee in this series of hearings,” said Subcommittee on Antitrust Ranking Member Ken Buck. “As I outlined in the Third Way report, there are several areas of bipartisan agreement and I believe we will be able to accomplish some important antitrust reforms.”

The Subcommittee plans to call antitrust experts, affected businesses, and other knowledgeable witnesses to assist with the development of legislation.
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